Robert Reich: SLAPP Lawsuits Are Biggest Threat To Resistance You Never Heard Of – OpEd

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.

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Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He has written 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations, Beyond Outrage and, most recently, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-creator of the award-winning documentary INEQUALITY FOR ALL.

One thought on “Robert Reich: SLAPP Lawsuits Are Biggest Threat To Resistance You Never Heard Of – OpEd

  • December 10, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    By golly, Robert is onto something worth of examination. In his inimitable way, he relishes Bolshevik terms of incitement as he describes the ultimate destruction of everything he holds dear: gatherings of radicals who publicity employing grotesque acts designed to draw the attention of the press.
    As an aside, for the folks out there with little understanding oi the American Way, we tend to be very permissive. Unlike other nations, where organized stupidity and blatant acts of property damage are suppressed, we, in the United States of America have allowed such idiots to vent their absurdities. Thus, trashing our cities, disrupting industrial development and uninhibited displays of vandalism were permitted.
    Our scruffy dwarf interlocutor, Robert the Jester (PhD), seems agitated that intolerance is finally overcoming naiveté in the form of a legal constraint. This is important, because the news media in the United States is attracted to the Wowie factor and totally ignores reality.
    That a remedy for stupidity is being exercised is refreshing as is the fact that particularly offensive groups are being targeted. As for the remedy, what a splendid acronym: SLAPP
    So be it Robbie. The truth is out! You’ll just have to put on your sign board in wander the streets of Bezerkley proclaiming ‘DOWN WITH CAPITALISM.’
    You lost and we won. Now get a shave.


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