Firearms Policy Coalition-supported federal civil rights lawsuit captioned Publius and Hoskins v. Diane Boyer-Vine seeks to strike down a California law that prohibits political speech
SACRAMENTO (October 31, 2016) — Today, attorneys representing two people who were served with an information takedown demand by the State of California’s Legislative Counsel filed an amended complaint in the federal First Amendment speech lawsuit Publius and Hoskins v. Diane Boyer-Vine, Legislative Counsel of California.
“Publius” (a pseudonym, since the challenged law carries a criminal penalty) runs a political blog under the alias “The Real Write Wringer” and writes extensively about California politics, civil liberties, and the Second Amendment. They, through their Web host, were served a censorious takedown letter from the California Legislative Counsel threatening litigation if their “tyrant registry,” which was posted after Governor Jerry Brown signed six new gun control bills into law on July 1, wasn’t removed due to the “grave risk” that it supposedly posed to the safety of elected officials. Publius is a member of the civil rights advocacy organization Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), which lobbied against dozens of gun control bills this year.
On July 5, Publius published a blog post saying, in part, “... below is the names, home addresses, and home phone numbers of all the legislators who decided to make you a criminal if you don’t abide by their dictates. So below is the current tyrant registry. These are the people who voted to send you to prison if you exercise your rights and liberties. This will be a constantly updated list depending on future votes ....”
Newly-added plaintiff Derek Hoskins is the owner of northeastshooters.com, an online forum for discussing firearms issues and shooting sports activities, news, and politics. Hoskins is also a board member of the Massachusetts-based civil rights group Commonwealth Second Amendment (Comm2A). Like Publius, the Legislative Counsel issued a takedown demand to Hoskins based on a discussion thread concerning the controversy over the Legislative Counsel’s takedown demand to Publius. The Legislative Counsel required Hoskins “to continue to ensure that” the censored information is not reposted anywhere on his forum for four years.
The case seeks to strike down California Government Code section 6254.21(c), which broadly restricts the Internet publication of the home address or telephone number of any “elected or appointed official.”
In addition to the First Amendment claims, the amended lawsuit also challenges the State’s enforcement of the censorious state law against plaintiff Hoskins under the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause as well as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230).
The plaintiffs plan to seek an injunction against enforcement of the law in November.
Said FPC President Brandon Combs, "The speech at issue in this case is not unlike the contentious and often personally-pointed political speech of the Founding era. Legislators can’t simply pass laws that criminalize law-abiding people and destroy fundamental rights and then expect to be shielded from public discourse and protest.”
“The State of California’s actions to suppress political speech it doesn’t like cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny,” stated Comm2A co-founder and director Brent Carlton. “We’re proud to stand up for fundamental freedoms in this case and wherever our members’ civil rights are infringed, even if that speech is unpopular.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Bradley Benbrook and Stephen Duvernay of Benbrook Law Group as well as Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor who has written and taught extensively about the First and Second Amendments.
Before joining the UCLA faculty 20 years ago, Volokh clerked for Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court. He also operates the popular legal blog “The Volokh Conspiracy,” now hosted at the Washington Post.