Libel Terrorism Protection Act (Rachel’s Law) signed by New York Governor
Great news — Rachel’s Law has been signed by New York’s Governor Paterson.
Here is the New York Governor’s office press release, and here is the
announcement from the American Center for Democracy, whose director, Rachel
Ehrenfeld, gave her name to Rachel’s law. Background here.
The Libel Terrorism Protection Act, also known as RACHEL’s LAW, signed by
Albany, NY (May 1, 2008) — New York State Governor David Paterson
yesterday signed the “Libel Terrorism Protection Act” (S.6687/A.9652), which
on March 31 passed the state’s Assembly and Senate unanimously.
Also known as Rachel’s Law, the bill sponsored by Assemblyman Rory Lancman
(D-Queens) and Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos (R-Rockville
Centre) will protect American journalists and authors from foreign lawsuits
that infringe on First Amendment rights. The bill also received
unprecedented support from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
“New Yorkers must be able to speak out on issues of public concern without
living in fear that they will be sued outside the United States, under legal
standards inconsistent with our First Amendment rights,” said Governor
Paterson. “This legislation will help ensure of the freedoms enjoyed by New
Reflecting the New York legislation’s importance, U.S. Rep. Peter King
(R-N.Y.) on April 16 introduced a similar bill, the Freedom of Speech
Protection Act (H.R. 5814), in the House of Representatives.
In Ehrenfeld v. Mahfouz, New York State’s highest court held that it was
unable to protect Dr. Ehrenfeld from a British lawsuit filed by Saudi
billionaire Khalid Salim Bin Mahfouz. Britain’s High Court ordered her to
pay over $225,000 in damages and legal fees to Bin Mahfouz, apologize and
destroy copies of her books.
Instead, November 2006, Dr. Ehrenfeld sought a U.S. federal court order to
protect her constitutional rights. But a New York Court of Appeals ruling
with national implications sent legal shockwaves throughout American
The New York court potentially undermined U.S. journalists’ ability to
expose terrorism’s financial and logistical support networks, when it ruled
that the court lacks jurisdiction to protect Americans – on U.S. soil – from
foreign defamation judgments that contradict the First Amendment to the
United States Constitution.
Rachel’s Law declares overseas defamation judgments unenforceable in New
York State unless the foreign defamation law provides, in substance and
application, the same free speech protections guaranteed under the U.S.
Constitution. The law gives New York residents and publishers the
opportunity to have their day in court.
“This law will give New York’s journalists, authors and press the
protection and tools they need to continue to fearlessly expose the truth
about terrorism and its enablers, and to maintain New York’s place as the
free speech capitol of the world,” Lancman stated.
“The truth is a critically-important component in the War on Terror,” said
Senator Skelos. “This important new law will protect American authors and
journalists who expose terrorist networks and their financiers.”
Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau said: “Terrorism and
terrorist financing are matters of vital interest to all New Yorkers, in no
small part because New York City remains a target of significance for
international terrorists. New York authors must have the freedom to
investigate, write and publish on terrorism and other matters of public
importance, subject only to limitations that are consistent with the U.S.
Constitution. This legislation will help to ensure such freedom.”
Today, Governor Paterson declared the intention of New York State, the
publishing capital of America, to safeguard the First Amendment and its
Rachel’s Law marks an important step in Dr. Ehrenfeld’s efforts to stop
Arab billionaires like Khalid bin Mahfouz from attempting to silence U.S.
writers who expose Saudi terrorist funding and global radical Muslim
organizations, including al Qaeda and Hamas.