Note: This page covers information specific to New Jersey. For general information concerning Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), see the overview section of this guide.
New Jersey does not have an anti-SLAPP statute. You can find general information in the section on Responding to Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). If you receive a SLAPP, you should immediately get legal assistance. You also may want to refer to the section on Responding to Lawsuits for more information.
Although New Jersey has no anti-SLAPP statute, New Jersey courts have shown concern about the impact of SLAPPs. As a result, they have allowed a defendant who successfully defeats a SLAPP-type suit to seek damages from the SLAPP filer on a claim of malicious use of process, akin to California's "SLAPPback" claim. Thus, if you successfully fend off a SLAPP-type suit in New Jersey, you may want to consider a malicious use of process claim. If you are interested in this route, you should consult an attorney to see whether such a claim may be viable in your case.
How to Make a Malicious Use of Process Claim in New Jersey
New Jersey's malicious use of process claim consists of four elements that you must prove:
- The SLAPP filer brought a claim against you without probable cause;
- The SLAPP filer acted with malice;
- The SLAPP suit was resolved in your favor; and
- You suffered a "special grievance."
You could establish the first and third element by showing that you succeeded in getting a SLAPP-type suit dismissed, assuming that the court indicated in the process that the SLAPP filer's claim was lacking legal and/or factual bases. You could prove malice by showing that the SLAPP filer sued you in retaliation for your exercise of your right of petition or free speech. See LoBiondo v. Schwartz, 323 733 A.2d 516, 534 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1999). Lastly, New Jersey courts have ruled that being SLAPPed constitutes a "special grievance." See Baglini v. Lauletta, 768 A.2d 825, 836-37 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2001); LoBiondo, 733 A.2d at 534.
New Jersey courts have not yet applied the malicious use of process claim to SLAPPs brought against bloggers or non-traditional journalists. Given the language the courts have used in describing the threat of SLAPPs to citizens' rights of petition and free speech, however, it seems entirely possible that the courts would be willing to extend the claim to these types of SLAPPs.