Eighteen months ago, the owners of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series and their big money lawyers lodged a retaliatory lawsuit against Save The Tarpon, its directors and a number of people they seemingly picked at random from the phone book.
The PTTS action quickly revealed itself to be little more than a transparent ploy – one largely bankrolled by Gary Ingman, his Port Charlotte boat emporium and its unwitting customers – commonly known as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.
A SLAPP Suit is a tactic of last resort typically employed by deep pocket plaintiffs, a maneuver designed to spend advocacy groups like Save The Tarpon into submission by endlessly dragging them through the court system – and keeping them there until they ultimately run out of money.
Two counties and two judges later, that’s where Save The Tarpon finds itself. The people who brought us gaff and drag, the Boca Grande Pass snag hook, the wrap boats, the Spandex ballet and, of course, the “controlled chaos,” have now brought us dangerously close to the point where our ability to SLAP(P) back could be in jeopardy.
The Public Participation Project is a non-profit coalition dedicated to enacting anti-SLAPP laws. The group has assembled an excellent primer entitled “FAQs About SLAPPS.” Take a moment to check out why these PTTS-style lawsuits are so potentially destructive:
1. What is a SLAPP?
The rights to speech and petition are enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Free speech and healthy debate are vital to the well-being of a democracy. In fact, the United States Supreme Court has said that the right to petition the government is the very foundation of our democracy.
SLAPPs are Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. These damaging suits chill free speech and healthy debate by targeting those who communicate with their government or speak out on issues of public interest.
SLAPPs are used to silence and harass critics by forcing them to spend money to defend these baseless suits. SLAPP filers don’t go to court to seek justice. Rather, SLAPPS are intended to intimidate those who disagree with them or their activities by draining the target’s financial resources.