What did bloggers (and real journalists) lose at the hands of a Dallas County Judge earlier this week?
What is a SLAPP suit? It stands for a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. How does it work? It is filed, well, by bullies usually in an attempt to shut someone up on an issue involving the public's interest.
As a wild example, let's use Walmart. Say Walmart was building a supermarket across the street from your house and, as an example, their parking lot lighting was perhaps not up to code. You're a contentious sort of person so you start making noise.
A lot of noise.
Eventually somebody sues you and abuses the legal system to torture and punish you--hoping to shut you up.
Thus the name SLAPP suit.
Because of the popularity of SLAPP suits, many states have adopted anti-SLAPP suit laws. Texas just adopted special legislation, addressing this problem, recently. Coined the Texas Citizens Participation Act it passed with unanimous support from both houses of the Texas Legislature.
Let's translate that: in a rare showing of complete unity, all Republicans and all Democrats supported it and voted to pass it.
The TCPA gives victims of SLAPP suits a quick route, early on, to force a plaintiff to show his or her lawsuit has merit before it wastes the resources of the court and the public.
Put another way, the TCPA is a mechanism to stop the court system from being used as a sword by those who would file frivolous lawsuits to stifle free (or unpopular) speech
For the law to work, though, you have to get it in front of a judge.
Before we tell the story of the lawsuit, we need to introduce the personalities.