You have a constitutional right to petition the government for a redress of grievances guaranteed under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution as well as the free speech and petition clauses of many state constitutions. If someone is trying to intimidate or censor your free speech, you have the right to fight back and in some cases there is already legislation to help.

What is a SLAPP?

A SLAPP or a “strategic lawsuit against public participation” is often disguised as a defamation case. The difference is that the alleged offense occurred in the course of political discussion. The earliest of these cases were often filed against local neighborhood groups and individuals who dared to oppose a zoning request or land use regulation. However, anytime a citizen is speaking, whether it be oral, broadcast or publication, on a subject of public interest, there is a danger of some chilling public interest litigation. The goal of the plaintiff is to stop a vocal opponent from expressing their first amendment rights.

What does Anti-SLAPP Legislation Prevent and Protect?

In the states that do not have a statute to curb this type of lawsuit, motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgement sometimes will stop them early. However, merely litigating a case, even if you ultimately win, is costly, painful and chilling to free speech. Even the threat of a lawsuit of this kind can cause a vocal opponent to think twice about speaking up.

In the states that have a statute to prevent this type of malicious prosecution, the law often provides a halt to discovery. Demanding loads of documents and requiring multiple depositions early in litigation is a typical method of attempting to squash “the little guy.”  It is also often a fishing expedition to find something that is not constitutionally protected speech to provide some merit to an otherwise meritless case. Second, these statutes provide for recovery of attorney’s fees for the defendant if the plaintiff’s case is deemed to be a SLAPP. This is a big plus, especially for a smaller litigant, facing large corporations or other firms with legions of staff attorneys. Even if the plaintiff drops the case, they cannot escape paying the penalty for filing a weak case.

What to do if you suspect you are the defendant in one of these meritless lawsuits?

Speak with an experienced Anti-SLAPP lawyer at Lexero that understands the nuances of these cases. You need an experienced attorney to protect your rights, no matter where you live or what laws may apply in your case. The first amendment is too important to leave to doubt.

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Lexero LLC

Lexero is a unique law firm with the sole goal of providing clients with the highest quality advice, service and value. Located in the heart of the legal capital of the world, Washington, DC, Lexero boasts an attorney roster with appellate and trial success who have been quoted or featured in some of the world’s most prominent media outlets. You can also read about some of the firm’s recent client successes.

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