"SLAPP in Face for Protesting Homeowners" (Times, July 5) describes a cynical, new legal ploy developers are using to deter community opposition to their projects. Homeowner organizations and individuals hesitating to raise valid challenges to proposed developments should, however, know about an important bill pending in the Legislature that will limit developers' right to use such aggressive tactics.
Senate Bill 2313 (sponsored by state Sen. Bill Lockyer) would provide significant legal protection to persons exercising their First Amendment rights of petition or free speech in connection with a public issue, such as opposition to unwanted development.
Lawsuits attempting to deter the exercise of those rights would be thrown out of court unless the plaintiff could demonstrate a substantial probability that he or she would ultimately win the suit. A developer filing suit to intimidate or harass homeowners raising legitimate concerns about a project could even be held liable for the attorneys' fees and costs incurred by the homeowner in defending the spurious claim.
SB 2313 has already passed through the state Senate and is scheduled for its first hearing in the Assembly in August. I intend to take a lead role in ensuring its passage through there as well.