United States: Senate committee approves libel tourism legislation
14 Jul 10

Yesterday (13 July), the Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation to protect US journalists and publishers from “libel tourism”. The SPEECH (Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage) Act will now go before the full senate. The impetus for the bill follows a number of law suits instigated against American writers  in foreign courts in order to exploit their weak libel laws.  For example, New York based academic Rachel Ehrenfeld was sued in London despite only 23 copies of her book, on the financing of terrorism, being sold in the UK. If passed, the proposal will prevent federal courts from recognising foreign libel ruling that are inconsistent with the First Amendment and will allow affected persons to apply for a declaratory judgement confirming that verdicts against them are non-enforceable. The bill, co-sponsored by Democrat Patrick Leahy and Republican Jeff Sessions, is believed to have a high prospect of being enacted because of its broad cross-party support.