Legislation aimed at preventing Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) that are filed to discourage groups or organizations from voicing their opinions will be introduced by 1st District State Sen. Larry Farnese early this coming session.
Farnese first pledged to introduce such legislation in May when the Old City Civic Association disbanded after it could no longer afford liability insurance because of mounting legal costs despite never losing a case or having to pay a settlement.
The fate of OCCA sent shockwaves out among other civic and community organizations, including the Central Delaware Advocacy Group. CDAG advocates for the Master Plan for the Central Delaware. Most of its members belong to civic organizations.
Farnese spokesman Cameron Kline said the proposed law would allow groups that believe they have been served with SLAPP suits to petition the court for relief. If the court finds the suit was intended to discourage public participation, the suit would be dismissed, and the party that filed it would have to pay the organization’s legal fees.
Kline said SLAPP lawsuits are a problem across the state, and so the topic is of interest to legislators from across the state. After the language is finalized, it will be circulated to see if other legislators wish to co-sponsor the bill.