Defamation, libel, slander … and other common SLAPP disguises.
SLAPPs all arise out of expressive activity which is directed to public concerns and protected by the First Amendment. Often, SLAPPs are “camouflaged” as ordinary civil lawsuits. Among the most often used legal theories are the following:
Defamation. Broadly defined, this is an intentional false communication, which is either published in a written form (libel) or spoken (slander), that injures one’s reputation.
Malicious Prosecution or Abuse of Process. A “malicious prosecution” is a criminal or civil lawsuit which is entirely without merit, and which is brought for a reason (such as, to harass or annoy) other than to seek a judicial termination of the claim, and where the defendant secures a favorable determination. The use of the legal process to intimidate or to punish the person against whom the suit is brought is generally referred to as “abuse of process.”
Invasion of Privacy. This refers to the unlawful use or exploitation of one’s personality, the publicizing of one’s private affairs with which the public has no legitimate concern, or the wrongful intrusion into one’s private activities.
Conspiracy. A conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit an illegal, unlawful, or wrongful act.
Interference with Contract or Economic Advantage. This is based on the commission of an act with the intent to interfere with or cause a breach of a contract between two people, or hinder a business relationship which exists between those persons.
Intentional or Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress. This is based on the commission of some outrageous act that results in severe mental or emotional anguish of another.
Nuisance. This includes conduct that endangers, or may endanger, life or health, gives offense to the senses, violates the laws of decency, or obstructs, or may obstruct, the use and enjoyment of property.
Injunction. An order by a court requiring the defendant to do or refrain from doing specified acts.
This list is not exhaustive. The specific legal theory upon which a suit is based does not determine whether a particular case is a SLAPP, although malicious prosecution and abuse of process claims will generally be subject to the requirements of the anti-SLAPP law. If the lawsuit arises from constitutionally protected speech or petition activity, and lacks merit, then the suit is a SLAPP.
It is important to recognize that SLAPP filers are not all malicious, any more than SLAPP targets are all well intentioned. The parties’ subjective motives, bad faith, intent, frivolousness, intimidation, or even rightness or wrongness on the merits – are all irrelevant to whether the anti-SLAPP law applies. The critical issues are whether the claim arises from protected expressive activity, and whether the plaintiff can demonstrate that his suit has merit at an early stage.
The information on this website is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. The information here is meant to provide general information to the public.