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New Law Proposed to Combat SLAPP Suits

By Maria Hickey, KWMU

St. Louis, MO. – Missouri law protects people who speak at public hearings from being hit with defamation suits.

Now a bi-partisan panel of St. Louis area lawmakers wants to strengthen the law outside hearings combating, what they call, "strategic litigation against public participation," or SLAPP suits.

State Senator John Loudon says such suits are meant to stifle public debate about corporate or political activity.

The Republican from Ballwin says the new bill would further protect citizens.

"The new bill would clarify who is protected; that speech in public chambers is protected and speech when you're just talking to your neighbors to get them involved in the process, that speech is protected as well," Louden said.

The proposed bill would also allow defendants in SLAPP suits to seek punitive damages if the case is dropped.

Other panel members include Sen. Michael Gibbons R-Kirkwood; Sen Harry Kenney, D-St. Louis; Rep. Walt Bivins, R-St. Louis; Rep. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis; Rep. Sue Schoemehl, D-St. Louis; and Rep Richard Byrd, R-Kirkwood.

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