Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suits are frivolous lawsuits intended to punish speech protected by the First Amendment.
A SLAPP isn’t meant to be won; it’s just meant to be so ruinously expensive and time-consuming to defend that the victim agrees to self-censor if the suit is dropped. SLAPPs are one of the many ways powerful figures and institutions use the legal system to punish critics, silence journalists and whistle blowers, and stifle the flow of information and opinions protected by the First Amendment.
SLAPPs are often brought by businesses, government bodies, or elected officials against those who oppose them on issues of public concern. In the case of a business interest, the filers may be seeking to protect an economic interest.
SLAPPs are filed against a variety of individuals and organizations who attempt to make their voice heard on an issue by expressing their First Amendment rights, to freedom of speech and freedom to petition the government. A large, well-funded organization may be SLAPPed, but more often, individuals with fewer resources are the victims of SLAPP suits.
This bill would allow a person being sued in a SLAPP suit to file a motion to strike the lawsuit if it arises from their constitutional right of petition or free speech in connection with a public issue. A defendant who prevails on a special motion to strike is entitled to attorney fees and costs.
Wisconsin must join the 31 states and the District of Columbia that have already enacted anti-SLAPP legislation to protect Wisconsinites’ First Amendment rights.