Pennsylvania To Introduce Anti-SLAPP Laws

September 14, 2013

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.


Attorney Christopher J. McCann Teaches Everyone How Not To Build An Online Reputation

June 15, 2013
bush_doing_it_wrong

“Christopher J. McCann speaking!”

Last year, Brian Tannebaum wrote about attorney Christopher J. McCann. Apparently McCann was trying to build his online reputation the wrong way. Long story short, McCann’s marketeer, Nader, asked Brian if he could write a guest post on Brian’s blog, My Law License.

Brian wondered why McCann, who advertised “personal service” on his website, couldn’t just pick up and the phone and ask him to write a guest post instead of having his webmaster do it:

I just wonder why Chris has hired someone to go find lawyers and try to sell himself on their blogs. Can’t he send his own email, or “call directly?” Where’s the “personal service” Chris. Chris?

A few days after Tannebaum posted his article, Matt Brown, a young lawyer in Arizona, wrote a blog post about availability which mentioned McCann in passing. In doing so, Brown described McCann’s marketing techniques as “scummy.”

Ok, fair enough. We call that First Amendment protected opinion. For instance, you may think my blog is stupid, crummy, and boring. While that opinion might hurt my feelings, you’re also entitled to express it.

So… fast forward to June of 2013…

Read the rest of this entry »


Why Pennsylvania Desperately Needs an Anti-SLAPP Statute To Protect Civic Engagement – The Dragonetti Act Is Not Enough

May 19, 2013

When most people think of the First Amendment, they think of the right to free speech. However, the First Amendment does not just protect free speech, it protects all civic engagement. The purpose of the First Amendment is to ensure that citizens have an active voice in our government. The First Amendment is not just a right to free speech, but a right to public participation. 

That right in Pennsylvania is currently in jeopardy thanks to SLAPP suits (strategic lawsuits against public participation). 

Ideally, Congress would pass uniform anti-SLAPP legislation so citizens in all 50 states enjoy the right to public participation. But until that happens, Pennsylvania desperately needs an anti-SLAPP statute because what we have on the books currently is not enough. Every citizen should be able to participate in our government, perhaps through blogging or civic activism, without having to worry about being served with a frivolous lawsuit.

Below are my thoughts on why we need it, and what it would look like…

Read the rest of this entry »