RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF SENATE BILL 95, PRINTER'S NO. 741, TO PROTECT FREE SPEECH FROM STRATEGIC LAWSUITS AGAINST PUBLIC PARTICIPATION (SLAPP)

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association, the oldest association of lawyers in the United States, is committed to protecting the right to free speech enshrined in the United States and Pennsylvania constitutions;

WHEREAS, the right to free speech, including the right to criticize the government and private interests, is essential to a functioning democracy and society;

WHEREAS, in response to public criticism, powerful actors sometimes file lawsuits against their critics for no other purpose than to deter the critics from continuing to voice their opinions;

WHEREAS, lawsuits filed for no purpose other than to impede or chill the valid exercise of free speech are sometimes referred to as “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation,” or “SLAPP” suits;

WHEREAS, though lacking in legal merit, SLAPP suits can be expensive and time-consuming to defend;

WHEREAS, defendants in SLAPP suits are often unable to secure representation because current law does not provide a fee-shifting mechanism that would allow defendants who succeed in getting a meritless suit dismissed to recover attorneys’ fees;

WHEREAS, in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, the Senate has passed Senate Bill 95, Printer’s No. 741, which, among other things, would:

  1. Immunize defendants from civil actions based solely on the defendant’s constitutionally protected speech, including speech connected to government action or public policy;
  2. Authorize defendants in such actions to file motions to dismiss the action based on the constitutionally protected nature of the speech at issue;
  3. Direct courts to stay all discovery proceedings until after a ruling on such a motion to dismiss;
  4. Allow either party to take an immediate appeal from a ruling on such a motion to dismiss;
  5. Award attorneys’ fees and costs as well as damages of at least $10,000 to a defendant who prevails on such a motion to dismiss;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association calls on members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to support Senate Bill 95, Printer’s No. 741, and any other similar bill that would strengthen protections against SLAPP suits.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association authorizes the Chancellor or the Chancellor’s designee to communicate the content of this resolution to members of the General Assembly, the Governor, state and local public officials, other bar associations, and the public at large, and to take such other action as may be appropriate.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: June 28, 2018