They’re often called SLAPP lawsuits, a frivolous suit filed just to shut up an annoying critic. The acronym stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” SLAPPS were sometimes used by major companies to hush up environmentalists. Sometimes it was used the other way around. The bottom line was that lawyers were hired to cause the other side great expense and great anxiety, nothing more, nothing less.
SLAPP lawsuits have made their way into the world of Homeowners Associations, too. If you don’t like the neighborhood critic, just hammer him with a SLAPP lawsuit. But there’s a troubling little annoyance called ‘The First Amendment’, and a troubling little Supreme Court decision called ‘New York Times vs. Sullivan’ that essentially says if you’re a public figure you’ll get nailed if you try to jam up the Free Speech rights of the neighborhood critic. A public figure has to be able to prove ‘actual malice’ in a lawsuit against someone who’s just expressing an honest opinion about what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s more complex, of course, but I go into the subject in detail in my new book, “Neighbors At War!”
But the commentary linked below shows that it can be very expensive for an HOA board member to use neighborhood monies to fund a lawsuit against the local loudmouth. Nobody wins in these idiotic SLAPP lawsuits. Everybody loses, that is, with the exception of the lawyers who file and defend such lawsuits. They always make money. That’s why there are so many lawyer jokes in the public discourse.
The wisest words in the story linked below: Get over it. Move on.