May 2, 2008 9:49 am


Today is a special day for Rachel, a modern profile in courage - She took on the Saudi powers that be and won a victory for free speech.

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 York authors."

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 Represenatives.

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 newsrooms.

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.


Floyd Abrams analyzes the law Foreign Law and First Amendment

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