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December 21, 2004

SLAPPing in Traverse City

See my entry of December 18th, All Politics is Local. A friend of mine sent the following to me, so I guess I'm not dreaming. This should be a concern of everyone. I added the bold highlighting, not that I needed to.

What are SLAPPs?

SLAPPs -- Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation -- are civil complaints or counterclaims (against either an individual or an organization) in which the alleged injury was the result of petitioning or free speech activities protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. SLAPPs are often brought by corporations, real estate developers, or government officials and entities against individuals who oppose them on public issues. Typically, SLAPPs are based on ordinary civil tort claims such as defamation, conspiracy, and interference with prospective economic advantage.

While most SLAPPs are legally meritless, they effectively achieve their principal purpose: to chill public debate on specific issues. Defending a SLAPP requires substantial money, time, and legal resources and thus diverts the defendant's attention away from the public issue. Equally important, however, a SLAPP also sends a message to others: you, too, can be sued if you speak up.

Every year thousands of people are hit with SLAPPs for such activities as writing a letter to a newspaper, reporting misconduct by public officals, speaking at public meetings, filing complaints with officials over violations of labor laws or health and safety laws, "whistleblowing" in corporations, or organizing tenants.

credit: California Anti-SLAPP Project

The Michigan Senate has a bill (1195) pending making SLAPPs illegal. I wonder how our city commissioners and attorney would respond when presented with this fact?

Posted by Gadflygirl at December 21, 2004 02:49 PM

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