The aim of Stategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) is to:
In some cases defendants settle out of court, agreeing to drop their campaign or even retract their criticisms rather than face a lengthy and expensive court case, even if they have a good chance of winning.
Canan and Pring found that those filing the suits assumed that economic rights were superior to public interests. “The idea is that because a business has money at stake, business should receive priority over civic, communal opposition.
Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) seldom win in the courts. The charges often seem extremely flimsy and the damage claims outrageously large. Most are dismissed by the courts and 77% of those that are heard by the courts are won by the people being sued. Less that ten percent of such cases in the USA result in a court victory for the filer of the action.
In 1983 the US Supreme Court stated in one such SLAPP case that a lawsuit may be used “as a powerful instrument of coercion or retaliation” and no matter how flimsy the case the defendant “will most likely have to retain counsel and incur substantial legal expenses to defend against it...”
Edmond Costantini and Mary Paul Nash observe in their article on the misuse of libel law for political purposes in the Journal of Law & Politics: “One would be hard-pressed to find another area of the law in which so overwhelming a proportion of defendants brought into court are eventually vindicated.” However companies and organisations taking this legal action are not doing so in order to win compensation. Rather their aim is to harass, intimidate and distract their opponents. They ‘win’ the court cases when their victims “are no longer able to find the financial, emotional, or mental wherewithal to sustain their defense.” They win the political battle, even when they lose the court case, if their victims and those associated with them, stop speaking out against them.
One trial judge pointed out:
The conceptual thread that binds [SLAPPs] is that they are suits without substantial merit that are brought by private interests to "stop citizens from exercising their political rights or to punish them for having done so"...The longer the litigation can be stretched out, the more litigation that can be churned, the greater the expense that is inflicted and the closer the SLAPP filer moves to success. The purpose of such gamesmanship ranges from simple retribution for past activism to discouraging future activism.