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E-M:/ Brater SLAPP Suit bill up next week!



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Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org
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Representative Liz Brater, with cosponsorship from a diverse cross section of
her colleagues in the House, has introduced HB 4709, a bill to protect
citizens against the use of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation,
or SLAPP suits.  Michigan already has seen several of these nasty anti-public
participation lawsuits aimed at citizens who have the gall to think that they
can criticize proposed permits, licenses, etc., that are up for public review.

The bill will be up for consideration before the House Consumer Affairs
Committee next week on Wednesday -- contact Rep. Brater's office at (517)
373-2577, or use email at lbrater@house.state.mi.us

BRAVO, REP BRATER!!  Striking a blow for not just freedom of speech, but
freedom to object to environmentally harmful proposals without fear of being
sent to the poor house for opening your mouth!!

Specifics:

HB 4709 seeks to establish that "a person who communicates with a governmental
unit by reporting on, commenting on, ruling on, challenging, or opposing a
governmental unit's grant of authority is immune from civil liability for
damages that the public applicant or permittee alleges resulted from the
communication."  In other words, you can't be sued for testifying against a
permit application or reporting a violation.   Governmental unit applies to
local, state, federal and other public bodies.

The bill directs a court to dismiss such "SLAPP" suits when so moved by
the person sued unless those making the claim can produce "clear and
convincing evidence" that the citizen does not qualify for this immunity from
liability.  All discovery must be halted until the court decides on such a
motion.  AND, court costs, attorney fees, and exemplary damages can be sought
by the person SLAPPED.  The governmental unit or the Attorney General's office
would be explicitly granted the right to intervene and defend the person being
SLAPPED.


Anne Woiwode


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