The Solicitor Regulation Agency (SRA) Monday warned solicitors in England and Wales of disciplinary action resulting from “meritless” lawsuits such as Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPPs). According to SRA, “the key aim of a SLAPP is to prevent publication on matters of public importance, such as academic research, whistleblowing or campaigning or investigative journalism.”Typically used by the ultra-wealthy, SLAPPS burden their critics with high legal fees and excessive documentation. The lawsuits usually concern defamation or invasion of privacy.The SRA has determined that a lawsuit is likely a SLAPP if: (1) the case relates to a public interest issue; (2) it has some features of an abuse of process; and (3) it has insufficient evidence of merit to warrant further judicial consideration.SRA reminded all legal professionals they are required to act in a manner that upholds the rule of law, with honesty and fairness to all. A breach of these principles may result in disciplinary procedures including financial penalties and licensure removal. Additionally, more severe penalties may result for solicitors or law firms filing on behalf of sanctioned individuals or corporations.The mere threat of a SLAPP may discourage an individual or party from entering into a legal debate. The UK Ministry of Justice has recognized this threat as effectively creating “no go zones” around corporations and the ultra-wealthy. As a result, SRA stated it is committed to investigating cases which make it to court and complaints of threatened SLAPPS.SLAPPs have increased dramatically since the Russian led invasion of Ukraine. Sanctioned Russian oligarchs have employed solicitors and law firms to file SLAPPs to silence journalists and impede asset seizure. A recent bill aimed at making judicial dismissal of these lawsuits easier failed in parliament last week.

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