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Last week’s lead story in The National Law Journal [" Pushing the SLAPP Envelope"] featured attacks on California’s broad anti-SLAPP legislation, and a case-by-case analysis of how California courts have engaged in a “dramatic” expansion of their interpretation of the state’s anti-SLAPP statute. So-called SLAPPs, Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, are designed to intimidate people from seeking their day in court, requesting relief from a government agency or simply protesting and speaking out publicly about their concerns. In those few states like California with strong anti-SLAPP laws, SLAPP victims can bring a motion early in the case, before expenses go through the roof, to force the “SLAPPer” to present evidence that it has a reasonable chance to win.

The acronym was invented by Denver professors Penelope Canan and George Pring in 1988. It originally referred to “political” participation, but soon came to mean all “public” participation, including free speech. In fact, Canan and Pring’s 1996 book is called SLAPPs: Getting Sued for Speaking Out. The California statute specifically refers to an individual’s free speech rights.

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