Getting Sued for Speaking OutGeorge W. Pring, and Penelope Canan
In a democracy that for over 200 years has prided itself on public participation and citizen involvement in government, thousands have been and will be the targets of multi-million-dollar lawsuits. They will be sued for such "all-American" activities as circulating a petition, writing a letter to the editor, testifying at a public hearing, reporting violations of the law, filing an official complaint, lobbying for legislation, or otherwise communicating their views. Such cases, named "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation," with their apropos acronym, SLAPPs, are a shocking abuse of one of our most basic political rightsthe Right to Petition. So extensive and grievous is the phenomenon that Justice Nicholas Colabella remarked, "Short of a gun to the head, a greater threat to First Amendment expression can scarcely be imagined."
George W. Pring and Penelope Canan explore the full range of SLAPP stories in this first study of SLAPPs retaliatory lawsuits by real estate developers; teachers; police; politicians; opponents of civil rights; consumers' rights; women's rights; and many others. This comprehensive book examines what happens to the targets of SLAPPs and what is happening to public participation in American politics. Addressing the ultimate dilemmawhat can be done to turn the tables and fight backPring and Canan offer concrete, well-supported, balanced solutions for preventing, managing, and curing SLAPPs at all levels of government.
"Anyone who treasures and uses the First Amendment will find this first ever book on the SLAPP suit epidemic a wake up call to careful civic action."
"This is a lively and important book documenting how SLAPPs are too often used to intimidate and punish citizens for participating in the political process. The book is a much-needed boost for grassroots democracy, which should heighten awareness of how the judicial system can be manipulated and abused to chill free debate."
—Rodney A. Smolla, Director, Institute of Bill of Rights Law, The College of William and Mary
"In this eminently lucid and accessible new book, Professors Pring and Canan solidify their rare position as innovators and problem solvers whose groundbreaking observations and insights not only coined the phrase, but energized a legal movement against the insidious abuse of legal process and rights of free expression known to the world as the 'SLAPP' suit."
—Henry R. Kaufman, First Amendment Attorney, General Counsel, Libel Defense Resource Center
"Citizen involvement plays a crucial role in effective government, particularly when it comes to enforcement of environmental laws. Lawsuits designed to chill and deter public participation hurt not only the targets, but society as a whole. Pring and Canan's book is a must for government lawyers who understand the importance of the public's right to petition and want to ensure that it continues."
—Nancy Stearns, Former Assistant Attorney General, New York State Department of Law
"...this book is a vital resource for anyone with concerns about free speech and the law. Get it for your library, your law firm and for any group of citizens planning to speak out. The frightening reality is the SLAPPs work in scaring most targets, who become less active than before. By becoming aware of the dynamics of SLAPPs, judges, lawyers and citizens can mount better defences against them."
"The power and limits of this book lie in its simplicity. In SLAPPs, Pring and Canan identify a problem, tell why it is serious, and offer a way to deal with it."
—Law & Society Review