Corpus Christi Caller-Times Editorial: What are SLAPP lawsuits and why do you need a law to protect you from them?

By Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Editorial Board
Originally published Feb. 15, 2019

Why would a law with the positive-sounding name Texas Citizens Participation Act be in danger? From whom? Should you be worried?

The short answer to the last question is yes. You should be worried unless you are insanely rich and don’t value the public good above your own.

What does this law do?

Before 2011, people, businesses and other organizations with deep pockets could make their critics go away by filing frivolous lawsuits. They were frivolous because their purpose was not so much to win in court as to bury their targets in expensive, time-consuming litigation they couldn’t afford. The result was that honest people and grassroots groups making legitimate complaints in the public’s best interest would cease their opposition and in some cases issue a public apology. Imagine being forced to apologize for putting your nose in the way of the fist that broke it.

This kind of lawsuit is called a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or, fittingly, a SLAPP.

SLAPPs also are a way to squelch journalistic efforts to inform the public. Left unchecked, SLAPPs could threaten the continued existence of the news media organizations they target. That’s our selfish self-interest in this topic — if you want to think of your right to know as selfish.

The Texas Citizens Participation Act went into effect in 2011, dealing a serious blow to SLAPP suits.

Read the full editorial here.