LANSING, Mich., June 7, 2024 — State Representative Kara Hope (D-Holt) introduced House Bill 5788 that would protect defendants in so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs). These lawsuits are intended to silence or intimidate individuals who speak out on public interest concerns, and the lawsuits can cost defendants thousands of dollars to defend themselves. SLAPP suits are typically initiated by wealthy, powerful plaintiffs against defendants with far fewer resources.

“SLAPP suits offend the First Amendment. People must be able to exercise their right to free speech without fear of being sued and having to pay tens of thousands of dollars to defend themselves,” Hope said. “This legislation will protect Michiganders from individuals who abuse the legal system to silence people.”

A photo of state Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt) chairing the House Criminal Justice Committee.

State Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt), right, chairs the House Criminal Justice Committee.

A Michigan resident recently became a victim of a SLAPP suit by simply a social media post that voiced concerns about local government’s dealings with a private entity. This lawsuit has the potential to cost up to $50,000. If this legislation had been law when this lawsuit was filed, court would have been able to immediately dismiss the case.

“I fully support this legislation introduced by sharing Rep. Hope,” said Michael Pitt, a lawyer who specializes in SLAPP suits and the lead counsel for the defendants. “These lawsuits are an abuse of the process and place unnecessary strain on the courts. They drain legal resources that can be better serviced elsewhere and can bury victims in legal debt trying to defend themselves. This legislation will protect victims from meritless lawsuits and uphold their right to free speech while also saving court resources.”

Michigan is one of only 17 states without an anti-SLAPP law.