Free Speech Under Attack
If we are to remain a free people, we need the foundation of the First Amendment. Free Speech guarantees every individual the freedom to express private opinions and beliefs publicly. Without public discourse and the freedom of associations, we will lose the greatest gift from our founding fathers.
DENVER, CO – The Pillar of Law Institute won a preliminary injunction this evening against the enforcement of a Colorado law against “ballot selfies,” photographs of one’s own marked ballot usually displayed on social media.
“This is a big victory for Coloradoans, allowing them to unquestionably express their support for candidates and causes in this election,” said Stephen Klein, Pillar attorney and co-counsel in the case. “Today, free speech won.”
One year ago today, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in the state, heard oral argument in Cary v. Texas, an appeal consolidating two criminal cases involving a husband and wife, David and Stacy Cary.
And there the case has sat, with no ruling from the court. The wheels of justice grind ever-so-slowly, leaving important issues of political speech unresolved in the Lone Star State.
DENVER, CO – Pillar of Law Institute joined a team of attorneys to represent several Colorado citizens in federal court today, arguing for a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of Colorado’s ballot exposure law. Three voters—Scott Romano, Colin Phipps and state senator Owen Hill—argued that the law unconstitutionally prohibits “ballot selfies,” photographs of one’s own ballot that are usually posted to social media.
CINCINNATI, OH – The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit granted a request this evening from Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to stay a preliminary injunction against enforcing election prohibitions again “ballot selfies,” photographs voters take of their own marked ballots and often post online. The ruling, in the case Crookston v. Johnson, followed an emergency appeal from the injunction, which was issued Monday by Judge Janet T. Neff of the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan.
“Ballot selfies are once again illegal in Michigan,” said Stephen Klein, Pillar attorney and lead counsel to Crookston in the case. “I congratulate the Michigan Attorney General and Secretary of State for their successful effort to uphold censorship.”
Update (October 27, 9:00 AM): Justin Timberlake removed his photo from Instagram, and discussed the situation on Jimmy Fallon last night:
Sadly, Justin learned the wrong lesson. Free speech is bigger than silly laws.
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Judge Janet T. Neff of the United States District for the Western District of Michigan issued a preliminary injunction in the case Crookston v. Johnson today, ruling that state law must not prohibit plaintiff Joel Crookston and other Michigan voters from photographing their own marked ballots and posting them on social media.
In other words, the opinion rules that Michigan voters may take “ballot selfies” under the First Amendment.
DENVER, CO – The Pillar of Law Institute filed a lawsuit on behalf of Colorado voters Owen Hill and Scott Romano in federal court today, challenging a state law that officials believe prohibits photographing one’s own marked ballot and displaying it on social media —commonly known as a “ballot selfie.” The lawsuit responds to a stern declaration late last week from the Denver District Attorney warning that ballot selfies are illegal in Colorado and punishable as a misdemeanor.
“Ballot selfies are not a problem to be solved; they’re an exciting new form of free speech,” said Stephen Klein, Pillar attorney and counsel on the case. “Despite thousands of citizens taking and posting ballot selfies nationwide, with no documented problems, some states continue to dig in and argue that they are dangerous.”
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Pillar of Law Institute attorneys filed a motion for preliminary injunction in Michigan federal court today on behalf of Joel Crookston in the case Crookston v. Johnson. The case is a challenge against state laws and rules from Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson that prohibit citizen photography in polling places, including photographing and posting a picture of one’s own ballot on social media.
“We’re asking the court to allow Joel Crookston and other Michigan residents to simply do what many are already doing—snapping and posting voting selfies and ballot selfies on social networks,” said Stephen Klein, lead counsel in the case. “This is an exciting new form of free speech that should be welcomed by the State of Michigan, not prohibited.”
LANSING, MI – The Pillar of Law Institute filed a lawsuit on behalf of Michigan voter Joel Crookston in federal court today, challenging state laws and orders from Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson that prohibit camera use in voting booths and polling places. Together, these rules threaten Crookston and all Michigan voters with forfeiting their votes, fines and imprisonment for photographing their own marked ballots, a practice known as taking a “ballot selfie.”
One of the conundrums of campaign finance regulation is where campaign money ends and “pure” political speech begins. Free speech advocates are rightfully wary of making this distinction, because political speech and engagement always cost money. Moreover, when government regulates campaign money, it regulates campaign activity, which can unduly influence or undermine the very purpose of campaigns—that is, to regulate government. Nevertheless, most agree that in spite of the debate about the appropriate scope of campaign finance law, there are indeed areas of political money that may be appropriately regulated and political speech that may not be regulated.
But recent events in Vermont show regulation stepping into a largely unregulated area: e-mails.