The New York State Legislature has before it an important bill that would discourage abusive lawsuits filed with the sole purpose of silencing critics. Known as SLAPPs, for strategic lawsuits against public participation, the suits are deliberate misuses of the legal system intended to choke off free speech. . . .
Mr. Trump has been a major purveyor of SLAPPs, including frivolous lawsuits brought by his campaign against The Times, The Washington Post and CNN. However, most SLAPP cases, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, involve real estate issues, the protection of the environment, consumer rights or animal rights in addition to criticism of public officials. Actions that have drawn SLAPPs include online criticism, letters to the editor, fliers, petitions, protest demonstrations, filing a complaint with a government agency, speaking out at public hearings and making legal claims.
Here are some typical examples of SLAPPs, among many cited on the website of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: When a reporter in Connecticut reported that a candidate for the State Senate had been arrested on a charge of drunken driving, the candidate sued her for invasion of privacy and emotional distress. When at a meeting of the Phoenix City Council in 2017 a grocer criticized the developer who controlled the land on which the store stood, the developer sued for defamation. An environmental group protesting a pipeline was sued by a natural-gas company for racketeering and defamation. In all these cases, anti-SLAPP laws helped defendants fend off the suits: In the first, the politician dropped the charges; in the other two, courts dismissed the charges and awarded the defendants fees and costs.
Anything we can do to keep the courts from serving as forums for bullying is great with me.