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22 Law & Soc'y Rev. 385 (1988)
Studying Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation: Mixing Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches

handle is hein.journals/lwsocrw22 and id is 389 raw text is: Research Note

The Petition Clause of the First Amendment protects any peace-
ful, legal attempt to promote or discourage governmental action at all
governmental levels and all governmental branches. This paper de-
scribes our examination of SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public
participation) cases where citizens who contact the government are
sued by the interests they oppose. We present the findings of a legal
document analysis and summarize ongoing research to understand the
social dynamic processes and extralegal outcomes of SLAPPs. The
purposeful blend of qualitative and quantitative methods is high-
lighted as an appropriate approach for answering micro- and
macrosociological questions involved in these cross-institutional dis-
This research explores the social, legal, and political impacts
of multimillion dollar lawsuits filed against citizens or groups for
advocating a viewpoint on a public issue in a government deci-
sional process (Pring, 1985). Such public participation or citizen in-
volvement in governance is an axiom of representative democra-
cies, encouraged by a variety of legal and cultural norms and
specifically protected by the Petition Clause of the First Amend-
ment to the United States Constitution.' Yet a growing body of
civil-damage lawsuits filed against such political participants by
their opponents are threats to an active polity. While labeled as
ordinary, apolitical, judicial claims, they are clearly reactions
This paper is based on the work of the Political Litigation Project, an in-
terdisciplinary research program of the Department of Sociology and College
of Law, University of Denver. Support for the work has been provided by the
Hughes Research and Development Fund of the College of Law, University of
Denver, which was created to encourage empirical sociolegal studies. We are
personally indebted to Nancy Reichman, Gloria Berndt, and Paul Colomy for
their comments and criticisms throughout many stages of this work.
I The Petition Clause guarantees the right of the people ... to petition
the Government for a redress of grievances (U.S. CONST. amend. I).

LAW & SOCIETY REVIEW, Volume 22, Number 2 (1988)

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