Is it a SLAPP Suit? How to Prepare Your Case for a Lawyer
The Texas Citizens Participation Act is complex. Texas appeals courts are often asked to interpret it. Hire a lawyer if someone sues you because you exercised your First Amendment rights.
This questionnaire, incident log, and this checklist may help you prepare your Texas Citizens Participation Rights Act case. These tools can help you give a lawyer enough information to evaluate your case and give you advice—and maybe even take your case.
If you win your anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss, the other side must pay your attorney's fees. So there is no reason not to at least talk to a lawyer to see if you have a good case.
See these articles about the Texas Citizens Participation Act and SLAPP suits.
- SLAPP Lawsuits and Texas Citizens Participation Act: Introduction
- Anti-SLAPP Suits: Frequently Asked Questions
- Sanctions and Attorney's Fees in SLAPP Cases
The information on TexasLawHelp is not a substitute for the legal advice and counsel of a lawyer. A lawyer knows how to protect your legal rights.
It's smart to keep a log of all your interactions with a person or business you're having a dispute with. Here is a template log you can use.
Besides your testimony, a judge may want to see something else that corroborates what you are saying. Like an incident log. An incident log is not required, but it might help you prove your case.
Print this out. Write down this information in your own handwriting. Do it at the time of—or right after—any incidents. This will help you document the facts. It can also help you remember incidents you might later report or testify about.
Use a log or journal to keep track of anything that happens between you and the other party. Take notes about phone calls, texts, letters, emails, social media posts, and in-person interactions. If you report anything to law enforcement, write down the officer's name and badge number. Even if the officer does not make an arrest, ask for a written report and get a copy.
Keep this log in a safe place and tell only someone you trust where you keep your log. Talk to a lawyer about this log and your legal options. Attach more pages if you run out of room. Or, use this as a guide to make your own journal. Include as much information as you can.
This information could be evidence and the other side of your dispute might see it someday.
Can you show a lawyer that you have a strong case?
The Texas Citizens Participation Act can help you get a lawyer. If you win the Anti-SLAPP Motion to Dismiss, the other side must pay your court costs, attorney's fees, and other expenses. So if you can show a lawyer that you have a good case, it may be easier for you to hire a lawyer.
You should complete this Looking for a Lawyer in a SLAPP Suit? questionnaire. Fill in the blanks and gather the information it asks for.
Any lawyer you talk to will want you to prepare an intake questionnaire. Their questionnaire may include information that you might not realize is relevant. So the Looking for a Lawyer in a SLAPP Suit? questionnaire will help you get ready.
To decide if you have a good case, a lawyer might consider factors such as:
- The extent of your damages,
- Who the person suing you is,
- Whether the person suing you has enough money to pay them, and
- The nature of the speech and actions over which you are being sued.
Give a lawyer as much information as possible. Show them that you would be a good client. This can make it more likely a lawyer will take your case.
Attach photographs, social media posts, and copies of restraining orders, police reports, and other relevant documents.
Look for a lawyer as soon as you think someone might sue you.
If you've never hired a lawyer before and don't know where to start, read the articles below.
- Finding Legal Help: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a Lawyer Referral Service?
- How do I find a private lawyer?
To contact a private lawyer you will want to contact your local lawyer referral service, or the State Bar of Texas Lawyer referral service.
If you need help finding a lawyer, you can also:
- Use our Legal Help Finder to search for a lawyer referral service, legal aid office, or self-help center in your area.
- Check our Legal Clinic Calendar to learn if there is a free legal clinic near you.
- Use Ask a Question to chat online with a lawyer or law student.
Being ready for your meeting with your prospective lawyer can pay off. Here is how to do it.
- Gather relevant documents for your case. Let the questionnaire be your guide. For example, have you made any police reports? If yes, get copies. Contact the public information officer with the law enforcement agency that showed up.
- Were any criminal charges filed? Get copies of documents like charging instruments from the county or district clerk's office.
- Fill out the questionnaire before the meeting. Give it to their office in advance of your meeting. You want to take full advantage of the time set aside for the consultation.
- The court might order the person or business suing you to pay for your lawyer. See Sanctions and Attorney's Fees in SLAPP Cases. So it is important to let a prospective attorney know that they can get paid. Some simple internet searches can help your prospective lawyer analyze the case, and whether the other side will be able to pay their fees.
- Look up the business on the Texas Secretary of State's web site.
- Look the other side up in their county’s appraisal district web site. The Texas Comptroller's website has links to local property appraisal and tax information. Look up the owner's name on the county appraisal district web site.
- Search social media. Do they have any social media profiles? Check LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, and others. Write out the name of the profile or handle and print out any materials that you think will help the lawyer.
Include this information in a well-organized folder or binder for your prospective attorney. On page 2 of the questionnaire, write short descriptions of any printouts you attach.
Include any public information you find in your folder.
Be on time for your consultation. Have the completed questionnaire and all the documents you've collected with you—and neatly organized in a folder or binder. Have your questions ready in advance to make the most of whatever low-cost or free advice you can get. You want to make the most of your initial consultation time, which can be lower-priced than the lawyer's usual hourly rate (especially if you found them through an official lawyer referral service).
If the lawyer agrees to represent you, and you want to hire the lawyer, you will sign a contract. Whether or not you enter into an attorney-client relationship depends on whether the two of you mutually agree to it.
During that consultation, you explain your case to the lawyer and discuss how much they would charge to represent you in the matter. If you choose to hire that lawyer, fees beyond the 30-minute consultation might be at the attorney’s regular rate. So ask if they can do a short, low-cost consultation for you. Some lawyers might be willing to accept credit cards or set up payment plans.
If you hire the lawyer, you need to read How do I work with my lawyer? As this article says, to work well with a lawyer, you should:
- Follow the instructions the lawyer gives you.
- Reply promptly to any requests for information from the lawyer.
- Tell the lawyer the whole truth. Remember, a lawyer is only able to help if they know all the facts. This is especially true for those facts that might hurt your case.
- Set a time each week to get a quick (5-minute) case update with the lawyer. Many lawyers have large caseloads, so it might take them a while to get back to you, while they handle your case. Setting a time each week to quickly discuss your case will keep you up-to-date and the lawyer on track.
Because the Texas Citizens Participation Act is complicated and changes often, you really are best served by having a lawyer represent you.
Be sure you have tried hard to find a lawyer. Refer back to Step 3: Finding a Lawyer, above. Ask about limited scope representation.
If you have no choice, you have the right to represent yourself (see Rule 7 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure). But be as prepared as possible. The following resources can be helpful if you have to represent yourself. Do your homework! You must participate actively in the lawsuit; otherwise, you may not be able to protect your interests.