ACLU Threatens to Sue OC Supervisors Over Alleged Free Speech Violations

Orange County supervisors (from left): Michelle Steel, Shawn Nelson, Lisa Bartlett, Todd Spitzer, and Andrew Do. (Photos by Nick Gerda/Voice of OC and Katlin Washburn for Voice of OC)

In recent months, Orange County supervisors have been putting tighter and tighter restrictions on speakers who try to address them at public board meetings.

And now, say attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), supervisors have gone too far.  It’s a warning that’s leading county officials to consider policy changes. 

In a letter earlier this week, the ACLU of Southern California claims the supervisors are violating numerous free speech rights guaranteed by state law and the U.S. Constitution. And they threatened legal action if supervisors don’t fix the alleged violations.

“Instead of acknowledging its role as servants of the community…over the last several years, the Board [of Supervisors] has treated the community as an impediment to conducting its own business and has systematically restricted members of the community’s ability to bring their concerns before the Board,” states the letter, signed by ACLU staff attorney Brendan Hamme and sent Monday to County Counsel Leon Page.

“Listening to your constituents is not an inconvenience to be endured; it is your job.”

Among issues cited in the letter are shorter time limits supervisors placed on public speakers, requiring speakers to give their names, refusing to let speakers address supervisors by name, and a policy blocking the release of security videos.

The supervisors’ actions violate the First Amendment and the state’s open meeting law, the Ralph M. Brown Act, the ACLU charges in its letter.

“If you do not agree to rescind your illegal rules and implement legal rules and policies, the ACLU of Southern California will consider all legal means to respond to your refusal,” the ACLU letter said.

Read More here – ACLU Threatens County Supervisors

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