(a) The General Assembly of Georgia finds and declares that it is in the public interest to encourage participation by the citizens of Georgia in matters of public significance and public interest through the exercise of their constitutional rights of petition and freedom of speech. The General Assembly of Georgia further finds and declares that the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of petition and freedom of speech should not be chilled through abuse of the judicial process. To accomplish the declarations provided for under this subsection, this Code section shall be construed broadly.
(b)(1) A claim for relief against a person or entity arising from any act of such person or entity which could reasonably be construed as an act in furtherance of the person's or entity's right of petition or free speech under the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the State of Georgia in connection with an issue of public interest or concern shall be subject to a motion to strike unless the court determines that the nonmoving party has established that there is a probability that the nonmoving party will prevail on the claim.
(2) In making the determination as provided for in paragraph (1) of this subsection, the court shall consider the pleadings and supporting and opposing affidavits stating the facts upon which the liability or defense is based; provided, however, that if there exists a claim that the nonmoving party is a public figure plaintiff, then the nonmoving party shall be entitled to discovery on the sole issue of actual malice whenever actual malice is relevant to the court's determination under paragraph (1) of this subsection.
(3) If the court determines that the nonmoving party under paragraph (1) of this subsection has established a probability that he or she would prevail on the claim, neither that determination nor the fact of such determination shall be admissible in evidence at any later stage of the case or in any subsequent action and no burden of proof or degree of proof otherwise applicable shall be affected by such determination in any later stage of the case or in any subsequent proceeding.
(b.1) In any action subject to subsection (b) of this Code section, a prevailing moving party on a motion to strike shall be granted the recovery of attorney's fees and expenses of litigation related to the action in an amount to be determined by the court based on the facts and circumstances of the case. If the court finds that a motion to strike is frivolous or is solely intended to cause unnecessary delay, the court shall award attorney's fees and expenses of litigation to the nonmoving party prevailing on the motion for the attorney's fees and expenses of litigation associated with the motion in an amount to be determined by the court based on the facts and circumstances of the case.
(c) As used in this Code section, the term “act in furtherance of the person's or entity's right of petition or free speech under the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the State of Georgia in connection with an issue of public interest or concern” shall include:
(1) Any written or oral statement or writing or petition made before a legislative, executive, or judicial proceeding, or any other official proceeding authorized by law;
(2) Any written or oral statement or writing or petition made in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial body, or any other official proceeding authorized by law;
(3) Any written or oral statement or writing or petition made in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest or concern; or
(4) Any other conduct in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of petition or free speech in connection with a public issue or an issue of public concern.
(d) All discovery and any pending hearings or motions in the action shall be stayed upon the filing of a motion to dismiss or a motion to strike made pursuant to subsection (b) of this Code section until a final decision on the motion. The motion shall be heard not more than 30 days after service unless the emergency matters before the court require a later hearing. The court, on noticed motion and for good cause shown, may order that specified discovery or other hearings or motions be conducted notwithstanding this subsection.
(e) An order granting or denying a motion to dismiss or a motion to strike shall be subject to direct appeal in accordance with subsection (a) of Code Section 5-6-34 .
(f) Nothing in this Code section shall affect or preclude the right of any party to any recovery otherwise authorized by common law, statute, law, or rule.
(g) This Code section shall not apply to any action brought by the Attorney General or a prosecuting attorney, or a city attorney acting as a prosecutor, to enforce laws aimed at public protection.
(h) Attorney's fees and expenses of litigation under this Code section shall be requested by motion at any time during the course of the action but not later than 45 days after the final disposition, including but not limited to dismissal by the plaintiff, of the action.
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