Watch

User menu

Search form

SLAPP Lawsuits: The Biggest Threat to the Resistance That You've Never Heard Of

SLAPP Lawsuits: The Biggest Threat to the Resistance That You've Never Heard Of
Fri, 1/5/2018 - by Robert Reich
This article originally appeared on robertreich.org

Have you heard of SLAPP lawsuits? You soon will.

SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” It is a lawsuit brought by big corporations intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the overwhelming costs of a legal defense until they’re forced to abandon their criticism or opposition. And it may be the biggest threat to the resistance you’ve never heard of.

Here’s an example: Resolute Forest Products, one of Canada’s largest logging and paper companies, has sued, in a U.S. court, environmental groups that have been campaigning to save Canada’s boreal forest.

Resolute based its lawsuit on a U.S. conspiracy and racketeering law (RICO) intended to ensnare mobsters. Resolute alleged that the environmental groups have been illegally conspiring to extort the company’s customers and to defraud their own donors.

The suit wasn’t designed to win in court. It was designed to distract and silence critics. This is punishment for speaking out. Thankfully, a federal court agrees and a judge just dismissed Resolute’s claims. But other corporate bullies are still trying to use this playbook.

Here’s another example: Remember the indigenous-led movement at Standing Rock, when hundreds of nations and their allies came together and stood up against the destructive Dakota Access Pipeline?

In August, Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind that pipeline, filed a similar RICO case against Greenpeace entities and two other defendants over Standing Rock. The suit accuses them of participating in a sprawling criminal conspiracy to disrupt business and defraud donors. The lawsuit even alleges they support eco-terrorism and engage in drug trafficking.

The lawsuit claims Greenpeace cost the company $300 million. Since RICO claims entitle plaintiffs to recover triple damages, the case potentially could cost Greenpeace $900 million. That would be the end of Greenpeace.

But, again, winning isn’t necessarily the goal of SLAPP suits. Just by filing the suits, Energy Transfer Partners and Resolute are trying to drain environmental groups of time, energy, and resources they need, so they can’t continue to fight to protect the environment.

Connect the dots, and consider the chilling effect SLAPP suits are having on any group seeking to protect public health, worker’s rights, and even our democracy.

Who’s behind all of this? Both the lawsuits I just mentioned were filed by Michael Bowe. He is also a member of Donald Trump’s personal legal team. Bowe has publicly stated that he’s in conversations with other corporations considering filing their own SLAPP lawsuits.

If the goal is to silence public-interest groups, the rest of us must speak out. Wealthy corporations must know they can’t SLAPP the public into silence.

Originally published by RobertReich.org

Sign Up

Article Tabs

cooperative economics, worker owned businesses, Nathan Schneider, worker control, shared profit, Commons, cooperativism, sharing economy, Everything for Everyone

The most striking secret of emergent radical economic structures like worker ownership is that they aren’t radical at all, a subject Nathan Schneider's new ranging book explores.

It might sound like common sense that poverty affects our overall health – but did you know that income inequality catalyzes wear and tear on a micro molecular level?

2018 midterms, Deep South elections, Stacey Abrams, Brian Kemp, Donald Trump, voter fraud, absentee ballots, Florida recount, Georgia recount

Future elections in the closely watched states of Florida, Georgia and Texas could be within grasp of Democrats as suffrage expands across the region.

border walls, Trump, Mexico-U.S. wall, Sahara wall, Spain migration, E.U. migration

Displaying his minimal understanding of geography and foreign policy, he suggested that Spain build a wall across the vast Sahara desert to stop the flow of migrants.

Illustration by Grace Alton

For millions of renters in the U.K., a robust set of policies around rental law would be life-changing. But the bill making its way through Parliament has to be done right.

cooperative economics, worker owned businesses, Nathan Schneider, worker control, shared profit, Commons, cooperativism, sharing economy, Everything for Everyone

The most striking secret of emergent radical economic structures like worker ownership is that they aren’t radical at all, a subject Nathan Schneider's new ranging book explores.

fossil fuel subsidies, climate inaction, carbon emissions, runaway climate change, oil subsidies, gas subsidies, G20 nations, carbon-free future, 100% renewables, clean energy, Climate Transparency, UN climate talks

Ongoing coal, oil and gas subsidies risk raising global temperatures to 3.2°C, well beyond the agreed Paris goal.

It might sound like common sense that poverty affects our overall health – but did you know that income inequality catalyzes wear and tear on a micro molecular level?

2018 midterms, Deep South elections, Stacey Abrams, Brian Kemp, Donald Trump, voter fraud, absentee ballots, Florida recount, Georgia recount

Future elections in the closely watched states of Florida, Georgia and Texas could be within grasp of Democrats as suffrage expands across the region.

climate financing, green banks, clean energy investments, big banks, Wall Street, fossil fuel industry, funding fossil fuels, fossil fuel subsidies, tar sands, coal industry, renewable energy, climate catastrophe

Despite regularly claiming new commitments to "green finance," the big banks continue to funnel billions of dollars into the fossil fuel industry every year.

Public Bank LA, public banking, public finance, city owned banks, Public Banking Institute, cooperative economics, mass movements

What does the disappointing loss on L.A.’s public banking initiative tell us about the future of cooperative economics?

Posted 6 days 18 hours ago
women of color, #Houston19, black women judges, judicial reform

Looking for some great news after Tuesday's midterms? Meet the #Houston19.

Posted 6 days 18 hours ago
climate financing, green banks, clean energy investments, big banks, Wall Street, fossil fuel industry, funding fossil fuels, fossil fuel subsidies, tar sands, coal industry, renewable energy, climate catastrophe

Despite regularly claiming new commitments to "green finance," the big banks continue to funnel billions of dollars into the fossil fuel industry every year.

Posted 2 days 2 min ago
border walls, Trump, Mexico-U.S. wall, Sahara wall, Spain migration, E.U. migration

Displaying his minimal understanding of geography and foreign policy, he suggested that Spain build a wall across the vast Sahara desert to stop the flow of migrants.

Posted 2 days 21 hours ago
Illustration by Grace Alton

For millions of renters in the U.K., a robust set of policies around rental law would be life-changing. But the bill making its way through Parliament has to be done right.

Posted 3 days 16 hours ago
border walls, Trump, Mexico-U.S. wall, Sahara wall, Spain migration, E.U. migration

Displaying his minimal understanding of geography and foreign policy, he suggested that Spain build a wall across the vast Sahara desert to stop the flow of migrants.

climate financing, green banks, clean energy investments, big banks, Wall Street, fossil fuel industry, funding fossil fuels, fossil fuel subsidies, tar sands, coal industry, renewable energy, climate catastrophe

Despite regularly claiming new commitments to "green finance," the big banks continue to funnel billions of dollars into the fossil fuel industry every year.

poverty in America, poor Americans, rising poverty, rising inequality

34 million American adults, or 1 in 7, are among the world's poorest 10%. How is that possible? In a word, debt.

Al Gore, Florida recount, Florida elections, George W. Bush, stolen 2000 presidency, 2018 midterms

At midnight on election day last Tuesday, vote tallies showed Republican candidates ahead in key races in Florida, Georgia and Arizona.

It might sound like common sense that poverty affects our overall health – but did you know that income inequality catalyzes wear and tear on a micro molecular level?