Companies facing criticism from civil society actors increasingly resort to filing Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). These lawsuits are intended to intimidate and to legally, financially, and mentally burden critics, to undermine the legitimacy of criticism, and to have a “chilling” effect on future advocacy against the company. Civil society actors that have been “SLAPPed” can counter the lawsuit under national law and with the assistance of anti-SLAPP coalitions.
Laws in many countries prohibit the filing of abusive, frivolous, vexatious, or meritless lawsuits.
Courts can dismiss SLAPP lawsuits (sometimes “with costs”, meaning that the company must pay the SLAPPed person or organisation’s legal expenses). People and organisations that have been SLAPPed should engage experienced national lawyers to determine the rules and procedures for dismissing a SLAPP.
It can be useful to consider the common hallmarks of a SLAPP and to prepare evidence demonstrating that the company’s lawsuit is abusive, frivolous, vexatious, or meritless. Such evidence could include the company’s history of legal intimidation and threats, and its resource-intensive legal procedures to increase costs.
Collaborating with others in civil society is another way to effectively counter a SLAPP. Civil society coalitions are increasingly uniting to raise awareness about the problem of SLAPPs.