WELSH, LA (KPLC) - Nobody likes to be slapped, but that's what a Welsh alderman says happened to him - but not in the usual sense. SLAPP stands for "strategic lawsuit against public participation."
And Alderman Colby Perry says anti-SLAPP laws are why lawsuits against him have been dismissed. In August, lawsuits by the Welsh mayor, police chief and two of the mayor's children accused Perry of defamation.
They said Perry had made false allegations of nepotism, improper handling of city finances and more. But attorneys for Perry say they are "SLAPP" suits - intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of legal defense.
The Welsh alderman says he was only exercising his first amendment rights:
"In America we have rights and those rights include engaging in government and the decision-making process, and SLAPP laws infringe on those rights and they attack our rights, and I'm very proud to be a citizen of a state that has implemented anti-SLAPP laws that protect the constitutional rights of its citizens - and I'm very thankful to have two attorneys to defend my rights in court," he said.
Perry attorney Michael Schwartzberg explains Louisiana has anti-SLAPP laws that prohibit such suits that inhibit free speech - and rack up legal bills.
"Because the legal system is the way that it is, it would be very costly and time-consuming to go a year or two years, and do depositions and costs and motions to finally get to the conclusion that, 'Hey, there's nothing here.' It's just this person is trying to use the law to silence this other person's first amendment rights," he said.
He says defamation suits require detailed specifics about how someone's reputation has been unfairly damaged.
"It puts a burden on the person making the defamation claim to come forward with specificity as to all of their evidence, at the very beginning of the suit. And the plaintiffs in this case just couldn't do that," he said.
Attorney Ron Richard, who represents those who sued has this response:
"I think it would be inappropriate to comment because we don't have a signed judgment from the court. Of course, my clients disagree with any adverse ruling and will consider all their appellate and legal options," said Richard.
For the backstory on the lawsuits click here.
In dismissing the suits, the judge said Perry's attorney's fees of about $12,000 should be paid by those who filed the suits.