Pennsylvania To Introduce Anti-SLAPP Laws

I have good news – Senator Larry Farnese has introduced a bill to protect civic associations and other individuals discussing issues of public importance, who are then named in a frivolous lawsuit (“strategic lawsuit against public participation” or “SLAPP”).

Anti-SLAPP laws are vitally important here in Philadelphia, as public participation is written into the Philadelphia Code. Under the law, anyone seeking a zoning variance or Special Assembly Occupancy License must first meet with the local civic association.

However, a chilling trend is emerging. When an applicant doesn’t like what the community has to say, they will file a frivolous lawsuit against the neighbors, bloggers, and the civic association. Defending these lawsuits are expensive for anyone on the wrong end of one, even if they are completely frivolous. SLAPP suits have gotten so out of control that the Old City Civic Association disbanded because it could not procure insurance for its directors and officers due to defending frivolous SLAPP suits. Under current Pennsylvania law, the victim of a SLAPP suit has little recourse against a vexatious plaintiff. Anti-SLAPP laws will punish those who choose to file frivolous lawsuits to curb free speech and public participation.

If you are a resident of Pennsylvania, I urge you to sign this petition and let the legislature know this is an important issue.

7 Responses to Pennsylvania To Introduce Anti-SLAPP Laws

  1. Noah Kovacs says:

    Glad to see some action being taken to curb the trend. I always hate hearing about frivolous suits like that. Seems like it is happening way to much overall these days.

  2. Arizona and Connecticut harassment statutes under facial attack as over-broad and vague concerning 1st amendment expression.

  3. […] Pennsylvania To Introduce Anti-SLAPP Laws (phillylawblog.wordpress.com) […]

  4. […] not all states have anti-SLAPP statutes, and some statutes are stronger than others. Philly Law Blog has good news about Pennsylvania considering an anti-SLAPP statute. The Digital Medial Law Project blog has even better news of how Nevada adopted one of the strongest […]

  5. […] Lawmaker to introduce anti-SLAPP bill to curb vexatious plaintiffs in Pennsylvania, and no state needs it more [Philly Law Blog] […]

  6. Max Kennerly says:

    It’s not an anti-SLAPP law — the majority of which test the sufficiency of the factual allegations at the beginning of the process — it’s some convoluted restraints on the elements of the tort of defamation, many of which make no sense whatsoever.

    The “procuring governmental action” section is meaningless, because the exceptions include elements that must be alleged to establish efamation.

    The “acts in furtherance of the right of advocacy on issues of public interest” part strangely defines almost everything as an “issue of public interest,” then comes back around and excludes “private interests” from the defamation with an equally broad and ambiguous definition.

    Taking your community member as an example, if they tried to use this law, the developer would claim (a) the statements made by the community member were knowingly false or recklessly made (something they have to allege anyway) and (b) the community member is really just advancing their “private interests.” Then you keep your fingers crossed as to what the Court rules, as it tries to figure out what the exceptions mean.

    This seems to be a classic example of “something must be done!” rather than a thoughtful approach to a legal problem.

  7. […] Nevertheless, and despite it’s high burdens, the Dragonetti Act is particularly important because Pennsylvania does not have an anti-SLAPP statute. […]

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