Supporters of anti-SLAPP legislation said a public hearing on the bill in Philadelphia on April 24 could draw enough attention to give the measure some momentum in the General Assembly.

“There really hasn’t been a sense of urgency about this in the past,” said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, who was set to testify at the hearing.

Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) are lawsuits filed against a person or organization for statements made or positions taken in connection with a matter of public interest or regulation.

In a memo asking other state senators to co-sponsor his legislation, Sen. Larry Farnese, D-Philadelphia, wrote, “My legislation would provide defenses to quickly dismiss SLAPP-type lawsuits, as well as possible recovery of attorney fees, for legitimate civic and community organizations that take positions or make statements in connection with an issue before a government body or official proceeding, or in a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest.”

Farnese’s office said SB 1095 grew out of the disbanding of the Old City Civic Association (OCCA), which faced thousands of dollars in legal bills even though the cases never went to court. The OCCA, which disbanded in March of last year, was sued twice in 13 months for objecting to liquor license transfers.

Twenty-seven states have anti-SLAPP laws, according to Farnese’s office. In 2000, the General Assembly did approve protections from SLAPP suits, but only for environmental law.