The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the 2020 amendments to the anti-strategic lawsuit against public participation (anti-SLAPP) law (Civil Rights Law section 70) should not be applied retroactively to cover plaintiff’s defamation claims against defendant. Therefore defendant’s motion for a ruling that the anti-SLAPP amendments applied retroactively should not have been granted:
… [T]here is insufficient evidence supporting the conclusion that the legislature intended its 2020 amendments to the anti-strategic lawsuit against public participation (anti-SLAPP) law (see Civil Rights Law § 70 et seq.) to apply retroactively to pending claims such as the defamation claims asserted by plaintiffs in this action.
The Court of Appeals has stated, in general terms, that “ameliorative or remedial legislation” should be given “retroactive effect in order to effectuate its beneficial purpose” … . * * * … “[C]lassifying a statute as remedial does not automatically overcome the strong presumption of prospectivity since the term may broadly encompass any attempt to supply some defect or abridge some superfluity in the former law” … . …
In light of …. the factual evidence that the amendments to New York’s anti-SLAPP law were intended to better advance the purposes of the legislation by correcting the narrow scope of the prior anti-SLAPP law, we find that the presumption of prospective application of the amendments has not been defeated. The legislature acted to broaden the scope of the law almost 30 years after the law was originally enacted, purportedly to advance an underlying remedial purpose that was not adequately addressed in the original legislative language. The legislature did not specify that the new legislation was to be applied retroactively. The fact that the amended statute is remedial, and that the legislature provided that the amendments shall take effect immediately, does not support the conclusion that the legislature intended retroactive application of the amendments. Gottwald v Sebert, 2022 NY Slip Op 01515, First Dept 3-10-22
Practice Point: The fact that a statute is deemed “remedial” in nature does not necessarily support a retroactive application of the statute. Here the 2020 amendments to the anti-SLAPP law, although “remedial,” were not applied retroactively to cover plaintiff’s pending defamation action against the defendant. The defendant’s motion for a ruling applying the amendments retroactively should not have been granted.