SLAPPed in Illinois: The Scope and Applicability of the Illinois Citizen Participation Act
Sobczak, Mark J.
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This article examines the origins, structure, and consequent effectiveness of the recently enacted Illinois Citizen Participation Act. Designed to combat a particular breed of vexatious litigation known as "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation," or "SLAPPs," the Citizen Participation Act conditionally immunizes potential civil defendants from liability when they are sued for acts implicating their First Amendment rights. The article briefly examines the nature of SLAPPs, why they stand contrary to public policy, and outlines some proposed solutions to eliminate or reduce their use. The article then explores the substantive and procedural mechanisms employed by Illinois to bring about the objectives behind the new law. After comparing the Citizen Participation Act to similar laws passed in other states, it becomes apparent that the broad language and applicability of the Act, coupled with its one-sided remedial mechanisms, presents a significant risk of destabilizing the fine balance of adversarial rights held by civil plaintiffs and defendants in Illinois--a balance the Act, on its face, seeks to protect. Finally, the article offers two relatively simple solutions that, if enacted, would help ensure the Citizen Participation Act successfully attains its goal of creating a more equitable and democratic judicial process for all.