Case Update: Sanctions for Frivolous Pleadings May Be Reduced to a Slapp on the Wrist

March 29, 2019

In 2015, Third Court of Appeals Justice Bob Pemberton, presciently warned that the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), or the Anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) statute, was “an across-the-board game changer in Texas civil litigation.” Serafine v. Blunt, 466 S.W.3d 352, 365 (Tex. App.—Austin 2015, no pet.) (Pemberton, J., concurring).

The TCPA allows a motion to dismiss a “legal action” that is based on, relates to, or is in response to the party’s exercise of the right to free speech, right to petition, or right of association. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 27.003(a). A “legal action” is a lawsuit, cause of action, petition, complaint, cross-claim, or counterclaim, or any other filing that requests legal or equitable relief. Id. § 27.001(6). The TCPA was designed “to encourage and safeguard the constitutional rights of persons to petition, speak freely, associate freely, and otherwise participate in government to the maximum extent permitted by law and, at the same time, protect the rights of a person to file meritorious lawsuits for demonstrable injury.” Id. § 27.002.

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