The D.C. Council is being asked to take the extraordinary step today of granting the District immunity from the longstanding recourses and protections afforded to people and businesses that are targeted by the government. And, they are considering it under the “emergency” powers of the District so as to avoid the checks and balances of the regular legislative process.
Specifically, the Council is considering legislation that would exempt the D.C. Government from “anti-SLAPP” lawsuits, which give people and businesses the ability to challenge a lawsuit as being waged for improper purposes, for example, to silence criticism or political speech. These laws are common throughout the United States because they prevent courts from being used to intimidate people or stop them from exercising their First Amendment rights.
In asking the D.C. Council to approve this emergency legislation, the District’s Attorney General referenced his political lawsuit against energy manufacturers. In this lawsuit, the Attorney General’s office is seeking to subject the manufacturers to liability for their involvement in the debate over climate change policies. This case is precisely the type of litigation that is vulnerable to an anti-SLAPP challenge.
Energy manufacturers, like all people and businesses, should be able to invoke these basic legal protections and ask the courts decide if the Attorney General’s lawsuit violates the anti-SLAPP laws. If the Attorney General truly believes in his case against the energy manufacturers, he would welcome the opportunity to make his case in court, not try to change the law to avoid accountability.