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Pring and Canan

More Than a "Legal" Problem

The constitutional implications of SLAPPs, though profound, are only a starting point. Understanding SLAPPs requires understanding more than their "constitutional" or "legal" aspects, for these are not ordinary “lawsuits"; they operate in much broader realms... [SLAPP suits] are not ordinary because they do not use the courts as an end in themselves, as a normal decision-making body. Rather, they use court leverage to empower one side of a political dispute and to transform it unilaterally. You may think you are speaking out against a city-zoning permit for an unwanted toxic waste dump in your town. Then suddenly, “city hall" becomes "courtroom"; "zoning" becomes "slander"; "permit denial" becomes "$1,000,000 in damages." The magic wand of a SLAPP as conjured you away from the place where your issue could be resolved, completely changed what issues can be discussed and increased the stakes with a wholly unexpected monetary risk. Normally thought of as the protectors of constitutional and political rights, courts are being used in SLAPPs, to transform public political disputes into private judicial disputes, to the unfair advantage of one side [large corporations] and the disadvantage of the other [citizens, activists, unions, associations and non-profits].(Pring and Canan)