Daily Media Links 7/28

July 28, 2022   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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In the News

Washington Times: Lawsuit accuses Georgia school board of censoring moms at meetings

By Sean Salai

Two mothers have sued a Georgia school board for refusing to let them read aloud sexually explicit passages from district-approved library books at school board meetings.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court, Cindy Martin and Alison Hair claim that Forsyth County Schools’ five-member board violated their constitutional rights to free expression by enforcing a public participation policy that forbids “profane, rude, defamatory remarks and personal attacks” during meetings.

The complaint seeks an injunction to overturn the policy.

“People cannot fairly pass judgment on books that they haven’t read. And when a school’s judgment as to which books young children should read is the subject of political debate, the First Amendment protects parents’ right to read aloud from these books, as well as the public’s right to hear the language at issue,” the complaint states.

Patch: Pennsbury School District Must Pay $300K For ‘Silencing Critics’: Suit

By Justin Heinze

In a major victory for free speech advocates which emerged from the national turmoil of school board meetings in 2021, a Bucks County school district must pay $300,000 in fines and damages.

The Pennsbury School District preemptively shut down public comment time during a meeting in May 2021 addressing district policy relating to diversity and inclusion, the suit states. Pennsbury school officials shouted down individuals who objected to the policies, which they believed were an example of Critical Race Theory, the lawsuit states. At one point a school solicitor yelled “you’re done.” …

“Rules for public comment periods are meant to maintain time limits and protect each speaker’s right to be heard, not police which viewpoints are expressed,” Del Kolde, Senior Attorney at the Institute for Free Speech, said in a statement. “Pennsbury’s rules were so vague and subjective that the board could effectively shut down any speech they didn’t like, and that’s exactly what they did.”

Judges previously ruled that Pennsbury was not legally allowed to stop public comments with which they disagreed.


People United for Privacy: PUFP VP Matt Nese’s Comments on ACE Act during Committee on House Administration Roundtable

People United for Privacy Vice President Matt Nese attended a roundtable organized by House Committee on House Administration Ranking Member Rodney Davis earlier today and offered the following comments, as prepared for delivery, in support of several critical provisions protecting citizen privacy included in the “American Confidence in Elections (ACE) Act,” introduced today by House Republicans:

“. . . People United for Privacy is strongly supportive of the ACE Act’s crucial privacy protections. To be very clear, these provisions protect the privacy of nonprofit supporters. They have nothing to do with campaign finance. The right to support nonprofits privately is a First Amendment right that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld for decades, including as recently as last year in the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) v. Bonta decision. This issue may seem partisan in Congress, but it’s not partisan in real life. The privacy rights at stake in the AFPF case were supported by over 280 nonprofits representing a wide range of causes and political preferences, from the ACLU and National Association of Manufacturers to the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Zionist Organization of America. Nonprofits may often disagree on various policy issues, but they’re united in agreement on protecting the privacy of their supporters. . . “

The Courts

Times of San Diego: 2 Poway Trustees Violated Free-Speech Rights of Couple, 9th Circuit Panel Agrees

By Ken Stone

Two Poway Unified school board members violated the First Amendment rights of a married couple by blocking their comments on social media, a federal appeals court confirmed Wednesday.

But the Poway trustees — T.J. Zane and Michelle O’Connor-Ratcliff — might not have to pay damages…

In its conclusion, the panel said:

“The protections of the First Amendment apply no less to the ‘vast democratic forums of the Internet’ than they do to the bulletin boards or town halls of the corporeal world. … That is not to say that every social media account created by public officials is subject to constitutional scrutiny or that, having created a public forum online, public officials are powerless to manage public interaction with their profiles.

As this case demonstrates, analogies between physical public fora and the virtual public fora of the present are sometimes imperfect, and courts applying First Amendment protections to virtual spaces must be mindful of the nuances of how those online fora function in practice.

Whatever those nuances, we have little doubt that social media will continue to play an essential role in hosting public debate and facilitating the free expression that lies at the heart of the First Amendment. When state actors enter that virtual world and invoke their government status to create a forum for such expression, the First Amendment enters with them.”

Providence Journal: Pawtucket pauses enforcement of ban on political signs 30 days before an election

By Katie Mulvaney

The City of Pawtucket late Wednesday agreed to pause enforcement of an ordinance banning the posting of political signs on residential properties more than 30 days before an election.

The city’s move came in response to a lawsuit brought by two Democratic primary candidates. The state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union sued the city; Kenneth McGill, registrar of the Board of Canvassers; and Zoning Director John Hanley on behalf of candidates Cherie Cruz and Jennifer Stewart, arguing that the regulation is unconstitutional and should be struck down…

“Political speech is at the core of the First Amendment. Decades of court decisions with which the City should be familiar make it abundantly clear that limiting political speech to one month before an election simply cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny. This ordinance is especially troubling since political sign restrictions generally have the effect of favoring incumbents over challengers, as one of the major obstacles for any challenger in a political campaign is name recognition,” Richard A. Sinapi, who is representing the ACLU, said in a statement.

Courthouse News: Injunction for courthouse protester ruled too broad in NY

By Josh Russell

Vacating an injunction against a New York law that bars shouting and displaying signage within 200 feet of a courthouse, the Second Circuit said the state has a compelling interest to keep such a rule on its books.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote had struck down the law, Section 215.50(7) of the New York Penal Code, as unconstitutional two years earlier, finding that it infringed the constitutional right to free speech.

The case stems from the 2017 arrest of Michael Picard, a self-described civil libertarian, as he picketed for jury nullification outside the Bronx County Hall of Justice.

Lexington Herald-Leader: Covington Catholic student’s 5 libel lawsuits against national media outlets dismissed

By Taylor Six

A federal judge has dismissed libel lawsuits against five media companies that a Kentucky student filed over an incident at the Lincoln Memorial in January 2019 in Washington D.C. which generated national news coverage. Nick Sandmann, who was a 16-year old student at Covington Catholic in Northern Kentucky at the time of the incident, was the center of videos that went viral which showed Sandmann and Nathan Phillips, a Native American man, standing face to face as Phillips beat a drum and sang a traditional song while Sandmann smiled. The five lawsuits were thrown out by United States District Eastern Kentucky Court Judge William Bertelsman according to documents filed on Tuesday. The complaints were against media outlets The New York Times, CBS, ABC, Gannett Co. Inc, and Rolling Stone. Sandmann filed the lawsuits in federal court in Kentucky.


Fox News: Tucker Carlson: DOJ is apparently hiding evidence of Hunter Biden’s criminal activity

By Tucker Carlson

Political speech is not a crime in America. It has never been a crime in America.  

Even if extremists use your words to justify their violence, you cannot be arrested for their deeds because we have a First Amendment. Political speech is sacrosanct, period. The Supreme Court has ruled on this many times. It’s at the very heart of our system. It is why this is a free country, but in the single most radical move, perhaps of the entire Biden administration, the attorney general, Merrick Garland, has decided to change this. 

The Washington Post is reporting that the Justice Department is investigating former President Donald Trump as part of a criminal probe into January 6. Now, that may confuse you, since Trump did not commit any act of violence on January 6. In fact, he publicly urged his voters to, “stay peaceful.” When they entered the Capitol building, he told them to go home. That’s all on public record, but according to Merrick Garland, Donald Trump is still liable for every single one of his supporters’ crimes that day. 

Independent Groups

Main Street Nashville: Andy Ogles’ treasurer Lee Beaman funded PAC behind ad buy; FEC filings raise questions of coordination

By Vivian Jones

Nashville auto magnate Lee Beaman, who is treasurer and chairman of Andy Ogles’ Congressional campaign, is also the sole donor for a super PAC that made a significant ad buy supporting Ogles, federal campaign finance disclosures show, raising questions of unlawful coordination.

The States

Oregon Live: Oregon good government groups will try again in 2024 to cap campaign contributions, shed light on ‘dark money’

By Hillary Borrud

Oregon voters could get a chance in 2024 to choose whether to set campaign contribution limits, under a proposed initiative filed Tuesday.

Oregon is one of just five states with no cap on political donations, and as a result wealthy individuals and interest groups, including corporations and public employee unions, regularly send huge sums directly to the political candidates who set the state’s public policy…

The proposed initiative would cap contributions at $2,000 per election from an individual to a candidate for statewide office, and $50,000 per election from an individual to any multi-candidate political action committee, such as a committee focused on electing Democrats or Republicans to the Legislature. The proposal would allow small-donor political action committees, which could be funded by unions or business associations, to donate up to $15,000 per election cycle to a political candidate, plus $10,000 in “in-kind” donations, such as paid staff time, per candidate each election cycle.

Election Law Blog: “Ohio Candidate Debates: May Corporations Fund the Major Parties?”

By Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Sarah Sadlier

The Ohio State Law Journal Online is publishing a short piece by Professor Mark Brown. The abstract is below:

“During the gubernatorial election in 2018, Ohio’s Democratic (Cordray) and Republican (DeWine) candidates squared off in a series of televised debates in Dayton, Marietta and Cleveland. Staged by three non-profit corporations (including two colleges) the debates were a culmination of behind-the-scenes discussions between the DeWine and Cordray campaigns. No other candidates were invited or allowed to participate. No criteria other than their party affiliations were employed to select the participants. The Libertarian (Irvine) and Green (Gadell-Newton) candidates were ignored. 

Were Cordray and DeWine squaring off in a federal election, the three debates they arranged would have plainly violated federal election law.

Block Club Chicago: Can Campaign Finance Be Reformed In Chicago? Ald Wants $250 Cap On Donations From Insiders With ‘Outsized Influence’

By Mack Liederman

Ald. Matt Martin (47th) is proposing an ordinance that would encourage city elections for aldermen and the mayor to be publicly financed.

Under the plan, campaign hopefuls and officials seeking reelection would have a choice to opt-in to new fundraising guidelines, which would cap large donations from influential donors and multiply small ones from community members.

The proposed ordinance would put a $250 cap on campaign donations from any individual, corporation or business “who has business dealings with the city,” Martin said.

Funds will be matched six-to-one for every small donation of $175 or less, Martin said.

Tiffany Donnelly

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