The barrister and writer John Mortimer reportedly said: “If someone tries to steal your watch, by all means fight them off. If someone sues you for your watch, hand it over and be glad you got away so lightly.”
The aphorism remains true of litigation in general, but applies especially to the astronomic cost of going to court in the US—and, in particular, what two US academics described in 1988 as “a new breed of lawsuits… stalking America.” In these suits, corporations or public figures claim for injury from citizens who had committed abhorrent acts like circulating a petition, testifying at a public hearing, lobbying for legislation, peaceably demonstrating “or otherwise attempting to influence government action.” Academics George W Pring and Penelope Canan called them “strategic lawsuits against public participation”, or Slapps.
Early Slapp cases included claims for defamation, malicious falsehood and conspiracy to damage a person…
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