(Jeffrey Gould has written for The Saint Report about SLAPP suits and legal rights to protect public participation in the development process. Here he looks at a citizen group in upstate New York that is threatening to sue ShopRite because the supermarket chain has filed a lawsuit to stop Walmart from building a store.)
By Jeffrey Gould
Vice President and General Counsel, The Saint Consulting Group
The group in Wawarsing, NY that is threatening to sue ShopRite because it filed a New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) lawsuit stopping Walmart from building, might want to think twice before filing it. The New York State Legislature, in 1992, enacted Civil Rights Law § 70-a and § 76-a to provide heightened protections for defendants in actions which involve public petition or participation, often referred to as SLAPP lawsuits, or “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation” suits. Similarly, New York State Civil Practice Laws and Rules §3211 (g), also provides protection to the victims of SLAPP lawsuits. And attorney fees are usually awarded as sanctions to a successful litigant who proves that the lawsuit is a SLAPP suit.
Further, Shoprite and others like it that bring lawsuits stopping such developments, may want to consider doing so anonymously by funding the effort, but having citizen groups take the lead, to avoid the negative publicity that comes from blocking a competitor from getting its building permits. The Noerr-Pennington Doctrine, derived from two United States Supreme Court decisions, guarantees citizens their First Amendment right to petition the government for redress without fear of antitrust liability, and protects parties like ShopRite who fund such lawsuits openly, or even anonymously.
To read more about the threatened class action lawsuit against ShopRite, see The Shawangunk Journal
Jeffrey Gould is vice president and general counsel for The Saint Consulting Group, email firstname.lastname@example.org phone 781.749.7290 Ext: 7115