Opinion of the Court
ment's Petition Clause at the least presents a difficult constitutional question, given the following considerations.
First, even though all the lawsuits in this class are unsuccessful, the class nevertheless includes a substantial proportion of all suits involving genuine grievances because the genuineness of a grievance does not turn on whether it succeeds. Indeed, this is reflected by our prior cases which have protected petitioning whenever it is genuine, not simply when it triumphs. See, e. g., Professional Real Estate Investors, 508 U. S., at 58-61 (protecting suits from antitrust liability whenever they are objectively or subjectively genuine); Pennington, 381 U. S., at 670 (shielding from antitrust immunity any "concerted effort to influence public officials"). Nor does the text of the First Amendment speak in terms of successful petitioning—it speaks simply of "the right of the people . . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Second, even unsuccessful but reasonably based suits advance some First Amendment interests. Like successful suits, unsuccessful suits allow the " 'public airing of disputed facts,' " Bill Johnson's, supra, at 743 (quoting Balmer, Sham Litigation and the Antitrust Law, 29 Buffalo L. Rev. 39, 60 (1980)), and raise matters of public concern. They also promote the evolution of the law by supporting the development of legal theories that may not gain acceptance the first time around. Moreover, the ability to lawfully prosecute even unsuccessful suits adds legitimacy to the court system as a designated alternative to force. See Andrews, A Right of Access to Court Under the Petition Clause of the First Amendment: Defining the Right, 60 Ohio St. L. J. 557, 656 (1999) (noting the potential for avoiding violence by the filing of unsuccessful claims).
Finally, while baseless suits can be seen as analogous to false statements, that analogy does not directly extend to suits that are unsuccessful but reasonably based. For even if a suit could be seen as a kind of provable statement, thePage: Index Previous 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Next
Last modified: October 4, 2007