Daily Media Links 10/4

October 4, 2021   •  By Nathan Maxwell   •  
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In the News

LevittownNow.com: Federal Lawsuit Accuses Pennsbury Of ‘Unlawful Censorship’

By Tom Sofield

Four Pennsbury School District residents have filed a federal lawsuit that claims their First Amendment rights have been violated.

Last Friday, Doug Marshall, Tim Daly, Robert Abrams, and former school board member Simon Campbell, all of whom had their public comments cut from school board meetings earlier this year, filed a federal lawsuit against the school district [and its leaders]….

The lawsuit claims school district officials violated the First Amendment by restricting public comments made at board meetings. It states that “Pennsbury’s board members and officials set out to censor citizens whose political views they despise.”

The lawsuit follows the district getting caught editing public comments from the March and May meetings. The comments were made by the plaintiffs.

The editing of board meeting videos captured local and national attention in summer…

The lawsuit points out times when the district shut down public comments that criticized the district and board, citing several incidents in 2020 and 2021…

The nonprofit Washington D.C.-based Institute for Free Speech is representing the plaintiffs.

New from the Institute for Free Speech

Parents, Community Members Sue Pennsbury School Board for Censoring Critics

After being repeatedly censored, badgered, and shouted down by school board officials, a group of parents and community members filed a federal lawsuit late Friday against the leaders of the Pennsbury School Board. The Board’s policies and actions restricting speech at public meetings violate the First Amendment, the lawsuit explains.

“Pennsbury officials are trampling on the First Amendment rights of parents and residents to speak their mind about their schools. They have cut off parents in the middle of sentences, yelled over critics to prevent them from being heard, edited remarks out of recordings of public meetings, and intimidated speakers by forcing them to publicly announce their home address,” said Institute for Free Speech Vice President for Litigation Alan Gura, who is representing the plaintiffs.

Video of Pennsbury’s aggressive censorship, which went viral this summer, shows community members being silenced simply for raising arguments Board officials disagreed with. While school boards may terminate comments that are obscene, exceed the allotted time limit, or lack decorum, they may not censor speech based on its viewpoint.

During one public meeting held on May 20, Pennsbury Assistant Solicitor Peter Amuso repeatedly interrupted residents who raised concerns about a new district policy, shouting “You’re done!” until they left the microphone. When a resident criticized the same policy at an earlier March 18 meeting, the School Board removed the remarks from its video recording of the meeting. Internal district emails confirmed that Board leaders removed the comment due to the views expressed by the speaker.

YouTubeSchool Board SUED For First Amendment Violations!

By Simon Campbell

[Ed. note: Here’s a video from one of our clients introducing the federal lawsuit against the Pennsbury School District.]

City of Austin v. Reagan National Advertising of Texas: Brief of Amicus Curiae Institute For Free Speech In Support of Respondents

Austin has limited digitized billboards to only those that display “on-premises” messages. The City’s ordinance effectively prohibits ideological or abstract messages that can never (or rarely) be said to be “on site.” As the Fifth Circuit asked at oral argument, “[h]ow could one determine whether a digital billboard that said ‘God Loves You’ is on-premises or off-premises?”

Austin raises various excuses to conceal its law’s content dependence, but it nonetheless regulates speech based on the content of a speaker’s message. Indeed, Austin’s excuses only highlight how dangerous its restrictions are in limiting all political and noncommercial speech, in giving officials discretion that conceals discrimination through layers of evaluation, and in allowing sleight of hand that obscures the law’s content dependence.

Free Speech

FIRE (Free Speech Out Loud Podcast)Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60 (1960)

Talley v. California is read by David Keating, President of the Institute for Free Speech.

Legal Question: Whether a Los Angeles city ordinance forbidding distribution of anonymous handbills violated the First Amendment.

Action: The ordinance was ruled void on its face and overbroad.

Mr. Justice Black delivered the opinion of the Court, at 01:32

Mr. Justice Harlan, concurring, at 14:26

Mr. Justice Clark, whom Mr. Justice Frankfurter and Mr. Justice Whittaker join, dissenting, at 17:55

Apple Podcasts

Spotify

Congress

Politico: Inside Manchin’s search for GOP votes on elections reform

By Marianne Levine

Senate Republicans are finally coming to the table on elections reform. Sort of.

As Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) pursues a longshot bipartisan agreement, some Senate Republicans are engaging in preliminary discussions with him on the issue. Even though Senate Republicans have ruled out legislation Manchin and a group of Senate Democrats introduced last month, which amounted to an intraparty compromise on elections and ethics reform, that’s not stopping the West Virginia Democrat from frantically looking for GOP partners while a much-anticipated vote on the legislation remains on pause…

Yet, the odds of Manchin’s engagement resulting in an agreement are slim, given the significant ideological gulf between the two parties on the issue.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed that the Senate will soon vote on the latest Democratic proposal…

Schumer has said that he is giving Manchin time to reach out to Senate Republicans before putting the legislation on the floor. But so far it has no support from the 50 members of the GOP caucus…

“We’re negotiating with Republicans in good faith and we’ll see what happens,” Manchin said this week. “We have some recommendations from our Republican friends that are going back now. So we’ll see how that goes.”

In addition to Blunt, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is among the Republicans speaking with Manchin on the issue. Others were reluctant to discuss their involvement…

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has offered warm words for Manchin recently and even met with him about the latest elections and ethics bill, despite saying hours earlier that it would receive no Republican support.

The Courts

The Verge: Trump sues to reinstate his Twitter account

By Kim Lyons

Former President Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit in Florida seeking to force Twitter to reinstate him, arguing the platform’s ban violates the First Amendment and Florida’s new social media law.

Trump is seeking a preliminary injunction of Twitter’s ban, according to the complaint filed in the Southern District of Florida late Friday. The former president argues that Twitter, “coerced by members of the United States Congress,” is censoring him, describing the social media platform as “a major avenue of public discourse.” Trump seeks to be temporarily reinstated on Twitter while he continues his efforts toward permanent reinstatement.

Baltimore Sun: Federal judge hears fight over whether Baltimore can cancel event headlined by right-wing star Milo Yiannopoulos

By Emily Opilo

A lawsuit filed over Baltimore’s attempt to block a conservative group’s use of the MECU Pavilion is in the hands of a federal judge following two days of courtroom action that included testimony from alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who tried to assure the judge the event will not devolve into violence…

The fight pits the City of Baltimore, which owns the MECU Pavilion, against conservative Catholic news outlet St. Michael’s Media, which hoped to hold a November prayer rally in the space. The rally and protest, which was to coincide with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting at the nearby Marriott Baltimore Waterfront, planned a slate of speakers, including Yiannopoulos and Steve Bannon, the CEO of former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Last month, Baltimore officials abruptly canceled the event, publicly citing the possibility of “significant disruption” due to the “characteristics of the location and the likely reaction to the planned program.” In a court filing, city officials argued they had a “legitimate fear” the rally “would incite violence in the heart of downtown Baltimore.”

St. Michael’s Media sued, arguing the city’s move violated the group’s First Amendment rights to free speech, expression of religion and assembly.

Reason (Volokh Conspiracy): City-Organized Veterans Parade Can Exclude Confederate Flags

By Eugene Volokh

So holds the Eleventh Circuit today in Leake v. Drinkard, in an opinion by Judge William Pryor joined by Judge Barbara Lagoa and District Judge Harvey Schlesinger:

“We hold that the [a pro-American veterans parade funded and organized by the City of Alpharetta, Georgia] was the City’s speech. It follows that the Sons of Confederate Veterans “cannot force [the City] to include a Confederate battle flag” in the veterans parades it funds and organizes.”

Surely correct, I think, just as the parade wouldn’t have to include a Nazi flag or a Soviet flag or for that matter a British, Mexican, or Spanish flag—or for that matter even flags of neutral countries (or banners promoting pacifism), if the city decides that those flags don’t fit the city’s message. Likewise, if the City wants to put on a pro-police parade, it needn’t include anti-police banners. Cf. Pleasant Grove City v. Summum (2009) (holding that a city may pick and choose what monuments to allow in its parks).

Nathan Maxwell

https://www.ifs.org/author/nmaxwell/

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