State of California’s Ban on Using Assembly Video for Political Speech Challenged in New First Amendment Lawsuit
Plaintiffs in the case include Second Amendment supporters opposing Gavin Newsom’s “Safety for All Act” gun control ballot initiative, two Emmy Award-winning filmmakers, and Congressional candidate Tim Donnelly
SACRAMENTO – Today, two civil rights groups opposing Gavin Newsom’s gun control ballot initiative were joined by two Emmy Award-winning filmmakers, a San Diego-based civil rights activist, and a candidate for Congress in filing a new First Amendment lawsuit challenging the State of California’s ban on using Assembly video footage for political speech.
The complaint, filed in the Eastern District of California federal court, states that California Government Code section 9026.5 prohibits the use of the public video feed from the California State Assembly “for any political or commercial purpose, including . . . any campaign for elective public office or any campaign supporting or opposing a ballot proposition submitted to the electors.”
Tim Donnelly, a plaintiff in the case who is currently running for Congress, was previously threatened by the Assembly Rules Committee for using a clip of a hearing in which he participated as an elected Assembly member.
Violating the statute is a misdemeanor crime that can lead to imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months, a fine of up to one thousand dollars, or both imprisonment and fine. Because of the importance of political speech and the criminal liability under the statute, the plaintiffs say they’ll be asking the court to issue a restraining order against the law.
“Millions of good, law-abiding people are at risk of becoming criminals through dozens of new gun control bills and the most dangerous, anti-civil rights ballot initiative we’ve seen in decades,” explained Firearms Policy Coalition Second Amendment Defense Committee Chairman Brandon Combs. “Yet Section 9026.5 says it would be a crime for us to use video of the people’s Assembly hearings and votes in political speech. It is shocking that this law was ever passed in a state that claims to value diversity, tolerance, free speech, and open government.
“This blatantly unconstitutional statute should be opposed by people across the political spectrum.”
“Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Kevin de León are playing fast and loose with legislative rules, but California law says that it’s a crime for us to use Assembly video to oppose their extreme agenda. We filed this lawsuit because we’re not going to stand by and watch while Senator de León and Gavin Newsom compete to burn the Bill of Rights to the ground first,” concluded Combs.
The plaintiffs are represented by Bradley Benbrook and Stephen Duvernay of Benbrook Law Group, PC, and Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor who has written and taught extensively about the First and Second Amendments. Before joining the UCLA faculty, 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.
A copy of the complaint for Firearms Policy Coalition Second Amendment Defense Committee, et al. v. Attorney General Kamala Harris can be viewed or downloaded at www.fpcsadc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/2016-05-26-Complaint-filed.pdf.
Firearms Policy Coalition Second Amendment Defense Committee (FPCSADC) is the official pro-gun grassroots political action committee (PAC) dedicated to opposing Gavin Newsom’s gun control ballot initiative. FPCSADC was formed days after Newsom announced his intention to put his gun control scheme on the November 2016 ballot and has been fighting against the initiative since its inception. More information about FPCSADC can be found at www.StopNewsom.com.
Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) is a grassroots, nonprofit public benefit organization. FPC’s mission is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, especially the fundamental, individual Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. More information about FPC can be found at www.firearmspolicy.org.