Whitecaps

Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Name:
Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Can Bloggers Be SLAPPed?

SLAPP is an acronym for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. It refers to lawsuits, often by corporations, developers, and governmental officials to stifle public policy debate and public criticism by suing those who would debate or criticize.

To better understand what a SLAPP is, how to reduce your chances of being SLAPPed, and how to deal with a SLAPP if you are SLAPPed, see the California Anti-SLAPP Project's Survival Guide for SLAPP Victims.

To learn more about SLAPP from a journalism perspective, see the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) A Uniform Act Limiting Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation: Getting It Passed. Appendix A of this paper answers such key questions as:

  • What is a SLAPP suit?
  • Isn't action involving public participation and petition already protected by the Constitution? Why is a special anti-SLAPP provision needed?
  • What will anti-SLAPP legislation do?

The main body of the SPJ paper gives some interesting history that precipitated anti-SLAPP legislation, particularly in Washington State and California. It provides suggestions for working toward getting anti-SLAPP legislation passed in states that do not have it. Some of the common-sense suggestions are:

  • Enlist an influential government supporter
  • Enunciate the problem
  • Build a coalition
  • Tell a meaningful story
  • Channel your power effectively
  • Play the politics
  • Be patient
  • Be willing to compromise

I'd like to end this post on a positive note. Washington State was the first state to pass anti-SLAPP legislation (see RCW 4.24.510). The note to that citation reads, in part, "Although Washington state adopted the first modern anti-SLAPP law in 1989, that law has, in practice, failed to set forth clear rules for early dismissal review. Since that time, the United States supreme court has made it clear that, as long as the petitioning is aimed at procuring favorable government action, result, product, or outcome, it is protected and the case should be dismissed. Chapter 232, Laws of 2002 amends Washington law to bring it in line with these court decisions which recognizes that the United States Constitution protects advocacy to government, regardless of content or motive, so long as it is designed to have some effect on government decision making." [2002 c 232 ยง 1.].

DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney practicing in your state. It is intended only to provide enough information to enable bloggers to more effectively and efficiently prepare to deal with competent legal counsel.

I hope it helps.

3 Comments:

Blogger Retired Geezer said...

Good post, Bill.
I linked it and alerted some other bloggers.

5:22 PM, March 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill,
Nice piece. But I don't think the anti-SLAP legislation protects a blogger, poster, or other person from disseminating untruthful, malicious, or defamatory material or innuendo against a governmental official or agency. Although the standard is higher to defame public officals, there still is a line that has been drawn. If a newspaper promotes or hosts the blog which contains defamatory or malicious information, or innuendo about a public official, the newspaper sould also be civilly lible.

9:33 PM, April 06, 2006  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...

Anonymous,

No, anti-SLAPP legislation is not a license to defame. It is intended to be a prophylactic against people with the resources to abuse legal process and the intent to discourage lawful protected speech.

7:32 AM, April 07, 2006  

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