UPDATE: Nonprofit free speech advocacy group First Amendment Project joins newspaper ban fight.
CITY FILES “ANTI-SLAPP” MOTION AGAINST CCS
The saga of the newspaper ban continues. The most recent action came when the City, led by Mayor Sam Allevato, hired (with your tax dollars) one of the most expensive law firms in the state to argue before a judge that the majority of the council has a First Amendment right to essentially, ban the First Amendment right to free speech on city property.
On January 21, the council majority filed what is called an “anti-SLAPP motion” against the Community Common Sense (CCS). “SLAPP” stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, described by the non-profit organization First Amendment Project as follows; “The United States and California constitutions grant every person the right to participate in government and civic affairs, speak freely on public issues, and petition government officials for redress of grievances. Yet, individuals and community groups are often sued for exercising these constitutional rights. These suits are known as "SLAPPs," or "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation."
By filing their “anti-SLAAP” motion, the council majority is arguing that the residents behind CCS are violating Councilmen Allevato, Kramer and Taylor’s right to free speech, under the theory that the council majority has a First Amendment right to violate the Brown Act by (illegally) voting on an item that was (illegally) identified on the agenda, and then (illegally) failed to report the vote in open session.
For Allevato, Kramer and Taylor to prevail they must convince the judge that public officials through their secretive actions behind closed doors, are allowed to make whatever decision they deem appropriate - even if that means banning newspapers on public property. But CCS and its attorney maintain that the constitutional and statutory rights of CCS as well as those of other news publishers, to disseminate news publications in SJC have been violated as have the constitutional rights of every SJC resident to access and read news publications as they see fit.
The taxpayers, whether they agree with it or not, are funding this motion for the benefit of Councilmen Allevato, Kramer and Taylor and City Attorney Hans Van Ligten, each of whom was named in the CCS’ lawsuit in their official capacity with the City. They are asking that each be removed from the lawsuit however, it was the council members’ action in voting to ban newspapers that prompted the lawsuit to begin with.
“They can’t undo what they did, and they should be held accountable for violating the First Amendment rights of my client, other news publishers and the residents of SJC who have the right to read and access news publications on public property,” said CCS attorney Wayne Tate.
Depending on how or if the judge denies the motion, the council members can immediately appeal the special motion which would have the effect of halting the case, unnecessarily dragging it out for up to several years at taxpayer expense.