A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.*
The typical SLAPP plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff's goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. In some cases, repeated frivolous litigation against a defendant may raise the cost of directors and officers liability insurance for that party, interfering with an organization's ability to operate.*
A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate. A SLAPP is often preceded by a legal threat. The difficulty is that plaintiffs do not present themselves to the Court admitting that their intent is to censor, intimidate or silence their critics. Hence, the difficulty in drafting SLAPP legislation, and in applying it, is to craft an approach which affords an early termination to invalid abusive suits, without denying a legitimate day in court to valid good faith claims. *
SLAPP suits are Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. It is a run-around of the ICCPR, by abusing the procedures of the court system to silence critics. By entangling your opponent in expensive litigation you can effectively silence your opponent even if you know you don't have any shot at winning the lawsuit. The point of a SLAPP suit is not to win, it's to silence and intimidate.*
The conceptual thread that binds [SLAPPs] is that they are suits without substantial merit that are brought by private interests to "stop citizens from exercising their political rights or to punish them for having done so"...The longer the litigation can be stretched out, the more litigation that can be churned, the greater the expense that is inflicted and the closer the SLAPP filer moves to success. The purpose of such gamesmanship ranges from simple retribution for past activism to discouraging future activism.*
Here are some quick highlights about a federal (and state) Anti-SLAPP statute which could be codified:
The statue allows a judge to dismiss frivolous lawsuits filed against one who speaks out about a “matter of public concern” within the first 60 days. “Matter of public concern” is defined expansively in the statute.
The Anti-SLAPP motion is supported by affidavits explaining to the court that the lawsuit is based on, relates to, or is in response to one’s exercise of his right to free speech, right to petition or right of association.