Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

Florida Becomes Latest State to Pass Libel Tourism Bill; California Could Be Next

(May 13, 2009, Weil Briefing)

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On May 4, 2009, Florida became the latest state (following New York and Illinois) to pass legislation aimed at preventing the enforcement in the United States of foreign libel judgments that do not comport with US constitutional standards. The phenomenon of "libel tourism," at which these laws are aimed, also is the subject of pending federal legislation, and it has, in addition, spurred examination of libel law reform in the United Kingdom, which has become the most popular venue for libel tourists. These developments all grow out of the clash of differing national approaches to libel law brought about, in large part, by the dissemination of speech over the Internet. The libel suit brought in England in 2004 against Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld in connection with her US-published book on the funding of terrorism, and Ehrenfeld's subsequent campaign to vindicate her First Amendment rights to report aggressively on matters bearing upon national security, have highlighted the chilling effect on freedom of speech in the United States caused by application of far more plaintiff-friendly foreign libel laws.

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