Q: Is it legal for a school board trustee facilitating a meeting streaming on Zoom to mute another trustee’s microphone because he objects to the content of what the trustee is saying?
A: The Ralph M. Brown Open Meetings Act (in which we specialize at this hotline) primarily imposes procedural requirements on legislative bodies to ensure that the public’s business is transacted at noticed and open public meetings, where citizens can exercise their rights to, among other things, observe the meeting, record its proceedings, and address members of the body. See Cal. Gov. Code § 54950 et seq. As such, the Brown Act is generally silent as to conduct at the meeting between members of the legislative body itself. Any prohibition on muting a fellow Board member would stem from some other source of authority, for example, the Board’s own bylaws or local county ordinance. You may wish to review those to see if the Board member’s actions violated some provision therein.
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries. In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation. No attorney-client relationship has been formed by way of this response.