State Sen. Larry Farnese (D–Phila.) announced on Thursday the introduction of legislation protecting Pennsylvanians against frivolous lawsuits, also known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.
Farnese said in a release that SLAPPs are suits filed against a person or group in connection with positions they take regarding matters of public interest.
"Despite the legal theories supporting a lawsuit, the true purpose of a SLAPP is to deter critics by burdening them with the costs of a legal defense," the release states.
Farnese's bill would allow those who are wrongfully sued to more easily have the case dismissed or to recover attorney's fees if they win.
"The legal system should protect free speech and not act as a hammer to silence people who speak their mind on important issues and neighborhood development,” Farnese said in a statement.
"The work that is done by our civic groups is essential to every neighborhood and the possibility that we might start losing these important forums is bad for everyone."
Farnese said he introduce the legislation in part due to the recent announcement of the Old City Civic Association's closure.
The neighborhood group will disband after 40 years of weighing in on zoning codes and liquor licensing matters due to rising insurance costs associated with lawsuits.
Farnese said he "was especially troubled because Old City had a thorough process for vetting issues before they weighed in publicly, like many other groups in the district."