AN ACT TO ENACT THE UNIFORM PUBLIC EXPRESSION PROTECTION ACT, AS RECOMMENDED BY THE GENERAL STATUTES COMMISSION.
Enacts new Article 54 to GS Chapter 1, titled the Uniform Public Expression Protection Act (UPEPA), providing for a special motion for expedited relief to dismiss a cause of action that falls within the Article’s scope. Includes defined terms. Defines the scope of the Article to a civil cause of action against a person based on the person’s (1) communication in a legislative, executive, judicial, administrative, or other governmental proceeding; (2) the person’s communication on an issue under consideration or review in a legislative, executive, judicial, administrative, or other governmental proceeding; or (3) the person’s exercise of the right of freedom of speech or of the press, the right to assembly or petition, or the right of association, guaranteed by the federal or State constitutions, on a matter of public concern. Excludes from the Article’s scope (1) a cause of action against a governmental unit or an employee or agent of a governmental unit acting or purporting to act in an official capacity; (2) a cause of action by a governmental unit or an employee or agent of a governmental unit acting in an official capacity to enforce a law to protect against an imminent threat to public health or safety; or (3) a cause of action against a person primarily engaged in the business of selling or leasing goods or services if the cause of action arises out of communication related to the person’s sale or lease of the goods or services. Defines goods or services to exclude the creation, dissemination, exhibition, or advertisement or similar promotion of a dramatic, literary, musical, political, journalistic, or artistic work.
Permits a party to file a special motion for expedited relief, no later than 60 days after a party is served with a complaint or other pleading asserting a cause of action to which the Article applies, to dismiss the cause of action or part of the cause of action. Permits filing the special motion at a later time on a showing of good cause. Specifies that the motion does not waive any other defense, objection, or motion, and a party’s failure to consolidate the motion with another motion or pleading does not waive a party’s right to file the special motion. Provides that the special motion stays all other proceedings between the parties until entry of an order ruling on the motion and expiration of the 30-day period during which the moving party may appeal such order, with proceedings stayed until conclusion of the appeal. Details limited exceptions to a stay under the Article.
Requires the court to hear the motion no later than 60 days after a party submits a calendar request for the motion unless the court orders a later hearing to allow for discovery or for other good cause. Identifies proof the court can consider on the motion, including any evidence that could be considered in ruling on a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56. Prescribes when a court must dismiss the cause of action, or part thereof, with prejudice in ruling on the motion. Requires the court to rule on the motion no later than 60 days after the hearing. Provides for an appeal from an order denying the motion. Provides for the award of attorneys’ fees related to the motion as specified. States mandate for broad construction of the Article and its uniform application.
Amends GS 7A-27 to include the denial of a special motion for expedited relief under new Article 54, GS Chapter 1, to appeals that lie of right directly to the Court of Appeals.
Includes a severability clause. Directs the Revisor of Statutes to print the official an explanatory comments of the UPEPA.
Applies to civil actions filed or causes of action asserted in a civil action on or after October 1, 2022.