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