SLAPP suit

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Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP suit) refers to lawsuits brought by individuals and entities to dissuade their critics from continuing to produce negative publicity. By definition, SLAPP suits do not have any true legal claims against the critics. People bring SLAPP suits because they can either temporarily prevent their critics from making public statements against them or more commonly to make critics spend all of their time and resources defending the SLAPP suits. Given their ability to stop individuals from exercising their right to free speech, over 30 states have adopted Anti-Slapp statutes that make it easier for defendants in SLAPP lawsuits to have the case dismissed at the outset, before spending lots of money on attorney fees. In egregious SLAPP cases, an Anti-SLAPP statute may even require the plaintiff to pay legal fees of the defendant. 

SLAPP suits and Anti-Slapp statutes pose multiple challenges to understanding important areas of law including slander, freedom of speech, and civil procedure, and Anti-SLAPP statutes remain a highly litigated type of legislation over constitutional and procedural concerns . First, while it may be easy to say a SLAPP suit should be prevented, it can be hard to determine what constitutes a SLAPP suit, and if the Anti-SLAPP statutes become too broad, they can prevent private parties from bringing meritorious libel or related claims. Further, given that Anti-SLAPP statutes increase the proof required to defeat a motion to dismiss, many concerns arise on whether an Anti-SLAPP statute prevents some lawsuits that should receive protections a full trial give such as a determination by a jury. State Anti-SLAPP statutes differ greatly in the scope and requirements as states try to balance the above concerns. In federal courts, the circuits remain split on whether state Anti-SLAPP laws are substantive or procedural and thus whether they can be applied in federal court. 

[Last updated in May of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]