There are a lot of things that divide Mississippians today--politics, religion, and football just to name a few. But I think there are some things that are so against our shared values that they actually bring us together in opposition. I would say that two of these things are frivolous lawsuits and censorship. However, many of my readers might be surprised to know that there is a common legal practice that combines these two evils and makes them even more offensive. This practice is the SLAPP, and it is time for Mississippi to put an end to it.
Let me explain.
SLAPP stands for
strategic lawsuit against public participation. These are lawsuits that powerful politicians and corporations use to try to silence those who would dare to criticize them. Here’s a typical situation. Albert is a factory worker at a plant in rural central Mississippi. One day, the factory lays Albert off. When he gets home, Albert has a couple of beers and, unwisely, logs onto Facebook. In a moment of anger and sadness, Albert makes a Facebook post. In this post, Albert says, “The factory laid me off today. Guess they don’t want anybody who won’t put up with their illegal crap.” The next day, one of the managers at Albert’s old firm sees Albert’s post. Within a week, Albert’s old factory sues him for defamation.
Now, here’s the thing. It might seem to us that Albert has not actually defamed anyone. It probably does seem clear that Albert’s old factory is just trying to shut him up and keep him from saying things that might hurt the company. We might expect a court of law to dismiss this frivolous lawsuit out of hand. We would be wrong.
One of the blessings and curses in American law is that anyone can sue anyone else for anything. Courts usually toss out frivolous lawsuits at some point, but that doesn’t stop the harm these lawsuits can do. In Albert’s case, he may well have to hire lawyers to defend him against his old company just so he doesn’t get stuck with a default judgment. But, just to avoid that problem, Albert will likely have to pay court costs and attorneys’ fees which, since he just lost his job, he can’t afford. This is the catch-22 that politicians and corporations can put ordinary people in through SLAPP lawsuits.
This problem has led thirty-one states to adopt what are called anti-SLAPP laws. These are laws that protect everyday people like Albert from powerful interests that would like to silence or bankrupt them. These laws are actually pretty simple. When someone gets SLAPPed, these laws give them the power to ask the court to quickly dismiss the SLAPP suit. These laws can stop the SLAPPer from engaging in invasive discovery fishing expeditions and can even require the SLAPPer to pay the victim’s legal expenses. These laws are powerful tools to end corporate and political abuse of our courts and protect the free speech rights of everyday people.
In this upcoming session, the Mississippi Legislature should pass an anti-SLAPP law. It would not be that difficult to do. Other Southern states like Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, and Louisiana have passed anti-SLAPP laws, and Louisiana’s is one of the best in the country. Our legislators should follow the lead of these states and protect the right to free speech from those who would abuse it. It is time for everyday Mississippians to come together to stop censorship by unscrupulous political and corporate power players. If you believe that Mississippi should SLAPP back and end these dangerous and frivolous lawsuits, please call your state representative and senator and ask them to sponsor an anti-SLAPP law.
Pursuant to MRPC 7.4(a)(2)
FREE BACKGROUND INFORMATION AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST
This site is for general information only, and creates no attorney-client relationship. Sending inquiries to the firm does not create an attorney-client relationship.
To get legal advice about an employment law, labor law, federal employee law, whistleblower protection, labor unions, worker cooperatives, immigration, discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, severance, or any related question, you must first have a conflicts check by the firm. We represent exclusively workers, worker cooperatives and unions, but we still must check for potential conflicts of interest, for example, between a supervisor and employee.
First provide the firm with your name, and the name of the person you are making claims against - and no other information. This allows the firm to check for such conflicts of interest. Until you receive confirmation from an attorney that there is NO CONFLICT, none of the information you provide will be considered confidential. Do NOT provide any confidential information before we have asked you to do so.
Once we have confirmed there is no conflict, you may discuss your matter with the attorney in a little more detail, and, if requested, make an appointment. If at your appointment the firm accepts you as a client in writing, then the attorney will be able to provide you with employment law advice.