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The challenge in Michigan, as Bill Tobler pointed out in his response, is that nothing in law protects concerned citizens or activists nor authorizes costs to be paid to the victim of these nefarious plots. The attempt a few years ago to get legislation passed in Michigan failed, and unfortunately this is clearly still a state where the laws are not friendly to individuals are rightfully speak their minds about important issues of public controversy.


One challenge is that these efforts are usually dressed up in the kinds of clothes described in the TCRE editorial, as if someone is harming a business.  In one case a CAFO operator used the anti-stalking laws of the state, asking the court to block legitimate monitoring of pollution, including photographing fields and facilities, on the pretense that the monitor was supposedly photographing children of the operator.  The judge was very clear that he would not do anything to curtail the ability of a citizen to track possible environmental problems, but it takes a very thick skin to get through that and keep at it.  Generally, public officials are protected by the insurance their governmental affiliation takes on, as long as they are discharging their duties in that position.  Efforts to pierce that shield have shown up in cases around the state, particularly targeting local units of government, but the attorneys for those units of government should fight back aggressively against these because it isn’t the individual that makes  a decision, it is the governmental body, and a lawsuit against a planning commissioner or township trustee is almost certainly intended to intimidate, not to move the issue


Even if you are absolutely right and prevail, a SLAPP effort can cost thousands of dollars.  In trying to be fair, courts may allow a case to go farther than warranted by the facts, without realizing that it is the intent of such litigation to simply drag out the threat and intimidate people out of doing what they are allowed by law to do.  Removing the courts as a weapon against public participation is what the anti-SLAPP laws in other states and the one proposed but not passed here were intended to do. 


Free speech isn’t free if you have to pay an attorney and court costs even when you are making legitimate and appropriate comments!


Anne Woiwode, State Director

Sierra Club Mackinac (Michigan) Chapter

From: owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net [mailto:owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net] On Behalf Of tdietzvt@aol.com
Sent: Friday, September 01, 2006 11:58 AM
To: HAMILTREEF@aol.com; enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
Subject: E-M:/ SLAPPS


For those concerned with this important topic I suggest the following text.   When I was a planning commission member and expert witness for my town in a state planning hearing, a developer threatened a SLAPP against me.  An informal legal consult suggested that if the developer actually brought the suit, I might end up owning the land proposed for devleopment as judges at that point (10 years ago in Vermont) often fined the plantiff for bringing a suit to intimidate.  Of course the case law may well have changed since then but the book is a good starting point.  I don't think Penelope, a sociologist, has written further on this, but George Pring may have.

SLAPPS: Getting Sued for Speaking Out

by George W. Pring, Penelope Canan

From the Publisher

In a democracy that for over 200 years has prided itself on public participation and citizen involvement in government, thousands have been and will be the targets of multi-million-dollar lawsuits. They will be sued for such "all-American" activities as circulating a petition, writing a letter to the editor, testifying at a public hearing, reporting violations of the law, filing an official complaint, lobbying for legislation, or otherwise communicating their views. Such cases, named "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation," with their apropos acronym, SLAPPs, are a shocking abuse of one of our most basic political rights -- the Right to Petition. So extensive and grievous is the phenomenon that Justice Nicholas Colabella remarked, "Short of a gun to the head, a greater threat to First Amendment _expression_ can scarcely be imagined."

George W. Pring and Penelope Canan explore the full range of SLAPP stories in this first study of SLAPSS -- retaliatory lawsuits by real estate developers; teachers; police; politicians; opponents of civil rights; consumers' rights; women's rights; and many others. This comprehensive book examines what happens to the targets of SLAPPs and what is happening to public participation in American politics. Addressing the ultimate dilemma -- what can be done to turn the tables and fight back -- Pring and Canan offer concrete, well-supported, balanced solutions for preventing, managing, and curing SLAPPs at all levels of government.

About the Authors:

George W. Pring is professor of law at the University of Denver.

Penelope Canan is associate professor of sociology at the University of Denver. They are the co-directors of the Political Litigation Project at the University of Denver.

Product Details

  • ISBN: 1566393698
    ISBN-13: 9781566393690
  • Format: Textbook Paperback, pp. 279
  • Publisher: Temple University Press



Professor of Sociology and Crop and Soil Sciences
Director of the Environmental Science and Policy Program


-----Original Message-----
From: HAMILTREEF@aol.com
To: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
Sent: Fri, 1 Sep 2006 11:46 AM
Subject: E-M:/ Suits aimed at activists have a chilling effect


In the protest world, they're called "SLAPP" suits. And as acronyms go, SLAPP is pretty descriptive — "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation."

SLAPP suits are a strategy used primarily by corporations or developers to intimidate individuals to prevent them from participating in public protests. Or, more bluntly, to shut them up.

What makes the suits unique — and effective — is that most are filed against individuals, not groups or local governments that may have the wherewithal to mount a legal defense.

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