ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — On Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an “anti-SLAPP” measure to stop the filing of frivolous lawsuits intended to intimidate, bully, or suppress free speech.

Known as “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” SLAPP suits are most often filed by rich, powerful, or well-connected entities against smaller individuals or organizations. Generally speaking, the defendants in such cases do not have the same level of resources or access to legal counsel. This means that even legitimate issues can be silenced by litigation that can last years and potentially bankrupt defendants trying to engage in free speech.

The new law—introduced as a bill by New York City representatives Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Helene Weinstein—aims to deter such lawsuits. Specifically, it amends the Civil Rights Law by requiring defendants’ court costs and attorney’s fees to be repaid by those affluent plaintiffs.

“For too long, powerful and wealthy interests have used frivolous lawsuits to harass and intimidate critics by burdening them with exorbitant legal fees and time consuming legal processes. That ends now,” Cuomo said. “I am proud to sign this legislation, which protects New Yorkers’ fundamental right to free speech without fear of harassment or bullying by those who happen to have more money than they do.”

This legislation protects the first amendment rights of New Yorkers. The Office of the Governor said that current legal protections were not broad enough, because they prevent courts from awarding legal expenses to SLAPP victims. This legislation discourages those tempted to file bad faith lawsuits.