SLAPP-ing Back


Open government advocates have expressed alarm at recent lawsuits that government agencies have filed against people requesting public records. Such suits bear a resemblance to “SLAPP” suits, the label given to “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” intended to harass active citizens out of the public sphere. This article considers whether these recent lawsuits could be considered SLAPP suits in their states, and examines whether 31 anti-SLAPP laws around the country might apply to these types of circumstances. We categorize the laws based on their various definitions for public participation, finding that many laws could cover public records requests, and argue that although not all anti-SLAPP laws will offer a defense when a government entity sues a records requester, courts do not look charitably on government plaintiffs in these circumstances.