In an order issued earlier this afternoon, Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled in favor of Plaintiffs Amy Frogge, Fran Bush, and Jill Speering, who earlier this year sued Metro and ex-MNPS Director Shawn Joseph over the legality of the School Board censorship clause contained in Joseph’s severance agreement. In a Memorandum Order, Chancellor Lyle struck down the censorship clause as unconstitutional on multiple grounds and permanently enjoined its enforcement.
Among other things, the clause prohibited elected School Board members even from truthfully criticizing “Dr. Joseph and his performance as Director of Schools.” Upon review of it, Chancellor Lyle ruled that the clause violated the Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights, unlawfully prohibited them from speaking honestly with their constituents, and violated established Tennessee public policy. As a result, the clause was invalidated as unenforceable. Metro and Joseph will additionally be required to pay the Plaintiffs’ “reasonable costs and attorney’s fees,” which have been pledged to charity.
“This is a landmark victory on behalf of both elected officials’ free speech rights and citizens’ right to hear from their elected representatives,” said attorney Daniel Horwitz, who represented all three Plaintiffs. “Metro and Joseph should be ashamed of their efforts to gag elected officials and prevent them from speaking honestly with their constituents about issues of tremendous public importance, and their illegal attempt to do so should serve as a costly warning to other government officials to think twice before violating the First Amendment.”
Daniel Horwitz is a First Amendment lawyer who represents clients across Tennessee. If you would like to purchase a consultation from him, you can do using the form below.
In a resounding win for free speech, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle has issued an order striking down Tennessee’s criminal defamation law prohibiting false “campaign literature in opposition to any candidate in any election.” Finding that the law represented an unlawful content-based, viewpoint-based, and identity-based speech restriction that could not withstand scrutiny under the First Amendment or the Tennessee Constitution, Chancellor Lyle invalidated the law as unconstitutional.
“Tennesseans have a constitutional right to mock and satirize politicians, and candidates for office cannot lawfully use the threat of a criminal prosecution to inhibit criticism,” Horwitz said in a statement to The Tennessean. “Tennesseans For Sensible Election Laws is proud to have won this important case and made Tennessee’s democratic process freer once again.”
Along with the win, in an order entered on September 11, 2020, Horwitz additionally secured a final judgment “awarding Plaintiff recovery of $69,882.37 in attorneys’ fees and expenses.“
Daniel Horwitz is a free speech and election lawyer who represents clients across Tennessee. If you would like to purchase a consultation from him, you can do using the form below.