Anderson v. Cobb County School District, 2002-2004
General Description: Resident-Only Public Comment
Summary of the Issues Involved: The plaintiffs filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia to challenge a residents-only policy for speaking at school board meetings. The court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding that there was no genuine dispute on the facts and the plaintiffs’ claims failed as a matter of law.
Atlanta Humane Society v. Harkins, circa 2002-2005
General Description: SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation)
Summary of the Issues Involved: Former Atlanta Humane Society (AHS) employee Barbara Harkins and Kathi Mills made statements critical of AHS during a television broadcast and on internet message boards. AHS filed a defamation action against Harkins and Mills, but questions were raised as to whether the suit could be sustained under Georgia’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) statute. Ultimately, the Georgia Court of Appeals determined that the statements Harkins and Mills made to the media were privileged and that the lawsuit should be dismissed, ending in a victory for the ACLU of Georgia.
Burk v. Augusta-Richmond County, 2003-2004
General Description: Protest Zone (Golf)
Summary of the Issues Involved: In anticipation of protests during a national golf tournament held in the county, Augusta-Richmond County enacted an ordinance requiring groups of five or more to obtain a permit in order to stage a public demonstration or protest. Burk, along with the National Council of Women’s Organizations and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, filed an action challenging the constitutionality of said ordinance, arguing that it amounted to a facial (a regulation that blantly or “on its face” violates a constitutional requirement) violation of the First Amendment. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit found that the ordinance was in fact unconstitutional.
Childs v. DeKalb County, 2005-2011
General Description: Protest (Vegan)
Summary of the Issues Involved: The plaintiffs held a demonstration in front of a store to raise awareness of vegetarian and vegan diets. At the end of the demonstration, the plaintiffs noticed a plainclothes police officer in an unmarked vehicle photographing them. Concerned, they recorded his license plate number. Seeing this, the officer called for backup, proceeded to follow the protestors, stopped them, and demanded that they turn over the information. The plaintiffs refused, which led to them being arrested for disorderly conduct. They later filed this suit to challenge the arrest. A jury ultimately found in favor of the plaintiffs, but deemed their claims unworthy of more than a nominal award of damages.
Gay Guardian Newspaper v. Ohoopee Regional Library System, 2002-2003
General Description: Newspapers
Summary of the Issues Involved: After receiving complaints from patrons, the Library removed copies of the plaintiff’s newspaper, The Gay Guardian, from its free publications table. The Library also changed its policy, only allowing government and library-generated materials to be placed on the table. The plaintiff argued removal of his publication amounted to censorship and a violation of his right to free speech. The court disagreed, holding there was no violation of plaintiff’s First Amendment rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld this decision, resulting in a victory for the defendant.
Gwinnett County Internet Blocking
General Description: Internet Use
Summary of the Issues Involved: The ACLU of Georgia conducted an investigation on the alleged blocking of websites deemed to be obscene or related to hate speech on public computers at the Gwinnett County Public Library.
Johnson v. Boggs, 2005-2006
General Description: Criticism of DFCS (Department of Family and Children Services)
Summary of the Issues Involved: Plaintiffs, grandparents who were unhappy with their treatment by the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), created a website on which they made statements about DFCS employees. The employees petitioned a magistrate judge for an Order of Arrest, and the judge asked the plaintiffs to explain why one should not be issued for making false and malicious statements. An Order of Arrest was later issued. The ACLU of Georgia filed a lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs, arguing the Order of Arrest violated the plaintiff's’ right to free speech. The case ended with a settlement agreement that allowed the plaintiffs to keep their website without threat of arrest.
J.U. v. Murray County School District, 2006
General Description: Students
Summary of the Issues Involved: Plaintiff was expelled from school for writing a poem school administrators deemed threatening. Other poems written by the student were not threatening. The ACLU of Georgia challenged the school’s policy as vague and argued suspension violated the student’s right to free speech. The case eventually settled with concessions made to the plaintiff.