A SLAPP suit is a legal action to censor, intimidate and silence critics or opponents by forcing them to endure the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” It was originally intended to protect consumer groups and citizens who spoke out against a company’s plans from being sued by that company on frivolous grounds in order to stop the criticism so the plans could proceed.
The goal of the typical SLAPP plaintiff is not necessarily to win the lawsuit, it’s to grind down critics under the financial, time and energy burdens that come with defending a lawsuit. These SLAPP suits, and anti-SLAPP motions, are not limited to businesses trying to squash public opposition to something. Businesses can be on both ends of these legal fights and something of public interest need not be involved. A court filing by one company against another could be the subject of a SLAPP suit.
California Law Tries to Balance Rights to Files Suits and Free Speech
The heart of California’s anti-SLAPP legislation is set forth in subpart (e) of Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, which provides:
(e) As used in this section, “act in furtherance of a person’s right of petition or free speech under the United States or California Constitution in connection with a public issue” includes:
(1) any written or oral statement or writing made before a legislative, executive, or judicial proceeding, or any other
official proceeding authorized by law;