SLAPP suits were big in New York in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In a typical SLAPP suit, a developer would take someone to court who spoke out publicly against his or her project. SLAPP stands for strategic lawsuit against public participation, and SLAPP suits were designed not just to shut people up but to punish them for speaking out and to deter others from speaking out.
The people who bring SLAPP suits, of course, never call them SLAPP suits. They claim that somehow their rights were violated. This week in White Plains
, however, a judge characterized a suit as a SLAPP, and under New York law a trial will now be held to determine how much in damages the developer must pay to the person he sued.