CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 2765, on Monday, June 15, 2009, under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. H.R. 2765 was introduced on June 6, 2009, by Rep. Cohen (D-TN) and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, which held a mark-up and reported the bill by voice vote on June 10, 2009.
H.R. 2765 would prohibit any U.S. court from enforcing a foreign judgment for defamation if a party to that judgment claims, and the court determines, that the judgment is inconsistent with the First Amendment to the Constitution.
The bill would prohibit a U.S. court from enforcing a foreign defamation judgment if the foreign court did not comport with due process requirements. The bill would also allow parties that defend themselves from foreign defamation suits to receive reasonable attorney's fees from the party brining suit.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The freedom of speech, religion, and assembly is a fundamental right in the United States, however many foreign countries do not provide this right to their citizens.
The courts of these foreign nations are not constrained by the First Amendment and thereby provide less protection to defamation defendants than our Constitution requires. Our nation generally will enforce foreign judgments as a matter of comity. The purpose of this legislation is to protect freedom of speech under the First Amendment from the potentially weakening effects of foreign judgments concerning defamation. In certain countries without First Amendment protections, people have brought suits against U.S. citizens and tried to freeze their assets. In 2008, New York passed a similar law that prohibited State judges from enforcing defamation suits unless the court found that the nation where the suit was brought had at least the same level of free speech rights as the U.S. and the State.
A CBO score for H.R. 2765 is not yet available. The legislation does not authorize any expenditures.