Missed this story when it first came out, so in case you did too: Dan Snyder’s lawsuit against Washington City Paper has inspired Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, to relaunch his effort to legislate against strategic lawsuits against public participation, also known as SLAPPs.
Cohen has been on this crusade for a while, but in a recent opinion piece in Roll Call, he credited Snyder with re-energizing his cause. Cohen’s argument:
The City Paper’s column was admittedly harsh but well within the bounds of free speech, especially about a public figure. Snyder was understandably angry, but instead of fighting speech with more speech, he chose to use the courts for his personal revenge. Whatever you may think of Snyder and the Redskins, the courts are not the appropriate forum for resolving these sorts of grudges.
Snyder’s own attorney seemed to acknowledge the true intention of his lawsuit in a letter to the hedge fund that owns the newspaper, the original object of his suit. He wrote: “Mr. Snyder has more than sufficient means to protect his reputation and defend himself and his wife against your paper’s concerted attempt at character assassination. We presume defending such litigation would not be a rational strategy for an investment firm such as yours. Indeed, the cost of litigation would presumably quickly outstrip the value of the Washington City Paper.”
This is exactly what SLAPPs are all about. They are used to silence and harass critics by forcing them to spend countless time and resources defending against them. SLAPPs use the courts as a weapon to stifle participation in government and chill expression about matters of public interest.
Cohen went on to write that he is drafting bipartisan legislation to protect against SLAPPS, “so that every American will be afforded protection against meritless claims that seek only to harass and bankrupt them.”
He also wrote that the “twists and turns of the Snyder case can be fun to watch for a lifelong sports fan like me.” Probably just a Titans fan or something.