Law Enforcement

The TCPA Helps Law Enforcement

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (“SLAPPs”) are meritless lawsuits designed to stifle the lawful exercise of First Amendment rights. Rather than seeking to right a legal wrong, SLAPPs are meant to retaliate against individuals, organizations, or companies for exercising their constitutionally protected rights of free speech, rights to petition, or rights of association.

The Texas Citizens Participation Act (“TCPA”) protects victims of SLAPP suits by establishing a special motion to expeditiously dismiss these meritless lawsuits. Successful movants under the TCPA are also entitled to an award of attorney’s fees and sanctions, allowing SLAPP victims to recover the costs of defending against these lawsuits and deterring SLAPP filers from bringing meritless claims.

Since its inception, the TCPA has repeatedly protected law enforcement facing retaliatory lawsuits aimed at intimidating and keeping them from fulfilling their duties.

TCPA Helps

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Examples

  • An attorney who was held in contempt of court and then failed to appear at his contempt hearing sued an assistant prosecutor after the assistant prosecutor executed a document swearing that the attorney was properly served notice of the hearing. The TCPA protected the assistant prosecutor—an Amarillo court of appeals held that early dismissal of the attorney’s claims was warranted. Hesse v. Howell, No. 07-16-00453-CV, 2018 WL 2750005, at *1 (Tex. App.—Amarillo June 7, 2018, pet. denied) (mem. op.), cert. denied, No. 18-931, 2019 WL 251678 (U.S. Feb. 19, 2019).

  • A police officer and candidate for Constable of Precinct Six of Tarrant County was sued by his political opponent for defamation based on campaign advertisements. A Fort Worth appellate court held that the advertisements did not rise to actionable defamation, and therefore, that early dismissal was appropriate. Hotchkin v. Bucy, No. 02-13-00173-CV, 2014 WL 7204496 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth Dec. 18, 2014, no pet.) (mem. op.).

  • A disgruntled former employee of a law-enforcement labor union sued the union based in part on comments from the union’s executive director regarding the former employee’s departure. The TCPA protected the union—the Austin court of appeals determined that the employee’s suit was based on the union’s right of association. Combined Law Enforcement Ass’ns of Tex. v. Sheffield, No. 03-13-00105-CV, 2014 WL 411672 (Tex. App.—Austin Jan. 31, 2014, pet. denied) (mem. op.).

  • A group of parents brought a lawsuit against various public officials in Fort Bend County, in response to the officials’ procedure of enforcing truancy violations. The TCPA prevented the parents’ legally deficient claims from proceeding against some of those public officials. Roach v. Ingram, 557 S.W.3d 203, 219 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2018, pet. filed), reh’g denied (Aug. 2, 2018).

TCPA Helps

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