Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Bill Peduto claims that the lawsuit Lamar Advertising filed against him and his fellow Councilmen Shields, Burgess, Kraus, and Dowd was a SLAPP. He seems to suggest the city law department opinion about their legal expenses has the sting of a SLAPP, too.

What's a SLAPP?

I didn't recall the term, but apparently SLAPPs have a long and contentious history.

SLAPP stands for "Strategic lawsuit against public participation".

Wikipedia defines it as:

"a form of litigation frequently filed by organizations or individuals to intimidate and silence critics or opponents by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense so that they abandon their criticism or opposition."

California passed a law to protect against SLAPPs. So have more than two dozen other states. That includes Pennsylvania, though our state's has been described as a "significantly weakened version passed into law in 2000." It was designed to deal only with environmental law cases, and reportedly was passed "after a coal baron sued an elderly constituent for filing a complaint with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection when her home suffered acid mine-water damage."

That's from this article in Philly area newspaper that quotes a critic complaining that a court ruling created "an unduly narrow interpretation that destroys any value or purpose of the statute."

It seems that SLAPPs are an international phenomenon. Here' s a YouTube video report by CUTV. Concordia University Television is Canada's oldest student-run television station. I'm linking to it here for some interesting background. As they say on the DVD extras, this is for entertainment purposes only, and does not necessarily reflect the views, etc.

Here are some PG articles in which the term "SLAPP" appears.

Meanwhile, I ran into Lamar Advertising's attorney Sam Kamin as I was leaving the City County Building after Tuesday's council meeting. He told me he had just finished dictating the court filing to withdraw Lamar's lawsuit against the city council members, as agreed to in the arrangement signed before the zoning board.

A check of the county court's website shows that the lawsuit has now been "Discontinued without Prejudice".

What the significance there is (if any) of the lawsuit being discontinued "without prejudice" in this case, I do not know.



Anonymous said...

Without prejudice means that all parties can refile their claims.

Eileen said...

Without prejudice means the suit can be refiled. It's similar to the concept of double jeopary. If it had been "with prejudice", bringing a new suit with the same cause of action by the same parties would be barred.

Bob Mayo said...

Thanks, to you both. The question in my mind is whether it was intended to be without prejudice in regard to matters before the Zoning Board, or whether there's any possibility that the council members could be the target of a new lawsuit by Lamar.

Eileen said...

The motion pertains to whatever the claims were in the action. Lamar could refile based on the same claims, or file a suit on totally different grounds. If the discontinuance had been "with prejudice", Lamar could still file a new lawsuit, but could not do it on the basis of any claims in the discontinued suit.

Anonymous said...

Catching up on moderated comments:

Anonymous from May 16, 2008 at 10:16 AM wrote, in part:

"I hope Lamar does refile. They won't. .. If they do file again, the defendants would again have the ability, through discovery, to get ...access to all public and private documents related to the matter. letters, emails, text messages and so on from the Mayor, zober, ford and others. "