Everyday Texans will find themselves on the short end of the stick if legislation filed by a Plano-based state representative becomes law.

House Bill 2730 by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, would gut the Texas Citizens Participation Act, a law that protects average citizens from being financially ruined by meritless defamation lawsuits filed by plaintiffs with deep pockets.

The act is also known as the anti-SLAPP law. SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation — which describes lawsuits filed by wealthy plaintiffs to silence critics by abusing the legal process to bankrupt them.

The primary beneficiaries are big corporations or wealthy individuals who can afford a drawn-out legal fight to drain the little guy dry, often without ever going to trial.

The Texas Legislature passed the Texas Citizens Participation Act in the 2011 session. Over the past eight years, the law has protected everyday folks who dare to speak their minds on matters of public concern.

Courtrooms are expensive places to be. Should H.B. 2730 become law, a person could spend his life savings to protect his good name, only to have the plaintiff walk away from the pretrial process at the last minute, leaving the defendant broke and still facing legal bills.

The act protects against such arrogant behavior by allowing for early dismissal of such lawsuits and ordering the plaintiffs to pay the defendant’s legal fees.

No Texan should lose his life savings simply because the other party can outspend him, and he should never be bullied into forgoing his First Amendment rights.

H.B. 2730 would ruin an imminently fair law that protects the free speech of all Texans.

The Texas Legislature should sentence H.B. 2730 to the lingering death it so richly deserves.

• Leonard Woolsey

Leonard Woolsey: 409-683-5207; leonard.woolsey@galvnews.com

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(4) comments

Jarvis Buckley

I agree with you Leonard.

Diane Turski

Call your representative and tell him/her that you are against this bill and you urge them to vote against it!! Laws favoring the wealthy over the rights of the rest of the citizens should be voted against by the elected legislators who are supposed to be representing the rest of the citizens! Make sure they know you are watching how they vote!!

Wayne D Holt

Just for reference (from Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code,in quotes) the purpose of TCPA:

“...to encourage and safeguard the constitutional rights of persons to petition, speak freely, associate freely, and otherwise participate in government to the maximum extent permitted by law and, at the same time, protect the rights of a person to file meritorious lawsuits for demonstrable injury.” A defendant may move to dismiss a lawsuit if he or she establishes by a preponderance of evidence that it is “based on, relates to, or is in response to [his or her] exercise of the right to free speech, right to petition, or right of association.” If defendant meets its burden, the case must be dismissed unless plaintiff presents clear and specific evidence of each element of his or her claims, in which case the defendant can seek dismissal by proving each element of a valid defense.

TCPA is a very big pebble to even the odds on some of the David and Goliath battles that can destroy individuals and even small businesses. As you may read above, there is a fair process contained in the Act to allow effective defense and early dismissal of frivolous claims. Outspending your legal opponent into penury despite being guilty isn't justice under anyone's definition but those who want a Get Out of Jail Free card.

George Croix

".....lawsuits filed by wealthy plaintiffs to silence critics by abusing the legal process to bankrupt them."
Yes. The guy from Plano should go back to sleep.....don't help us, Jethro.....
That sucks, BUT the problem isn't just the 'wealthy plaintiffs' in all cases....
There's the attorney problem, too, where one takes a case that has NO merit or certainly much less than the lawsuit asks damages for, then 'settles' and walks away with money that is less than asked for, but also less than what the target would have to pay to defend themselves, along with any associated bad PR as the 'legal claim(s) is drug out daily in the news, for instance. It doesn't matter what the facts are, or even if the claims are totally bogus, all that matters is winning...
Legal extortion, by any other name...
IMO, as always....

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