Name: SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation)

Date:  1985 - 1995

Location:  North America

SubjectPolitical/Economic/Social Opinion

MediumPublic Speech

Artist: Ten residents of Westfield

Confronting Bodies: Westfield Partners, Inc.

Date of Action: 1990

Specific Location: Illinois

Description of Artwork:  "...In 1990, Westfield Partners, a real estate development firm, purchased land in DuPage County to build a subdivision of single family homes. In order to profit from the venture the developers needed access to a particular roadway. The ten residents who lived along the roadway opposed the development due to the increase in traffic. They petitioned the Highway Commissioner to change the status of the road from a public roadway to private access. After a public hearing on the issue, which the developer failed to attend, the Commissioner decided the issue in favor of the residents..."

Description of Incident: "The developer then sued the citizens in the federal court in Illinois, alleging that they had conspired with the town planners to deprive the developer of property without the due process of law. In addition, the defendants were charged with slander and interference with prospective economic advantage." "In cases such as this individuals and community groups across the United States are being sued for exercising their constitutional "right of petition. These suits known as "SLAPPs" (for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation), are being brought by corporations, real estate developers, government officials, and others against who oppose them on issues of public concern--usually relating to the environment or development, but also encompassing such issues as government spending, corruption and prison construction. SLAPP targets have been sued for engaging in a wide variety of of speech and expression activities: writing a letter to the editor, calling a public official, conducting a public campaign, speaking at a town meeting, testifying before Congress or state legislatures, and filing public-interest lawsuits." The Fund For Free Expression , N.Y.C.,Vol. 1 Issue 6 Pg. 1-6

Results of Incident: "The ten defendants filed a motion to dismiss the suit on the grounds that their First Amendment rights of petition were being attacked. The court granted their motion... The judge sanctioned the developer's attorney for filing a frivolous suit, claiming that Westfield had no basis for arguing that there had been a conspiracy between the defendants and the government to deprive the firm of property without due process. Westfield Partners was required to pay more than $9,00 in attorney's fees to the defendants." The Fund For Free Expression , N.Y.C.,Vol. 1 Issue 6 Pg. 6

Source: The Fund For Free Expression , N.Y.C.,Vol. 1 Issue 6 Pg. 1-7

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