SLAPPS are “Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation.” These meritless lawsuits are used by public officials as weapons to silence critics of public bodies. Several states have Citizen Protection Acts that are meant to quash SLAPPs early in the legal process, as the public officials who file these SLAPPs often have considerable public resources behind them…while the targets of the SLAPPs are usually ordinary citizens without means who are terrified by the mere thought of being sued. SLAPPs have proven to be a very effective way for public bodies to chill the First Amendment rights in communities, because people are scared of being sued…and public officials create the appearance that if people speak out against public officials, they will be sued and the costs of defending against such litigation in court are daunting.
SLAPPs are a fascinating field of study for anyone interested in fighting back against out of control government. The First Amendment contains a powerful tool for public activism called the Right to Petition. You need to bone up on it, as well as all of your other First Amendment rights, as government (particularly on the local level) and the police are quite prone to attempting to abridge these rights via threats, intimidation, and harassment such as SLAPPs.
On this page, we’ve collected some useful reading material on SLAPPs. A highly recommended book on SLAPPs was written by George Pring & Penelope Canan in the 1990s and is available on Amazon here:
CASE STUDY #1: The Carla Burkhart College of DuPage Foundation SLAPP against the Edgar County Watchdogs, filed January 2016
* Part 3: The mystery deepens (with Thundercats!)
References for wrongdoing by Carla Burkhart and the College of DuPage:
CASE STUDY #2: The Bridget Bittman Orland Park Public Library SLAPP, filed October 2014
References for Bridget Bittman’s Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation that was funded by members of the American Library Association:
3. New book SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment takes detailed look at Bridget Bittman’s SLAPP lawsuit.
4. Video highlighting some of the insane things that local government did that culminated in the Bittman SLAPP: