People’s First Amendment roundup: Newspaper asks public to back records request with own filings

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry sued reporter Andrea Gallo for submitting a public records request to obtain a copy of the original complaint of sexual harassment in Landry’s office. An staff editorial in Gallo’s newspaper, The Advocate, February 9, 2021, asks the public to join in the fight for open government by filing their own public records request for the sexual harassment complaint.

A Ferris State University professor, Thomas Brennan, was fired for racist and anti-Semitic tweets. In a defense letter Brennan said his tweets were “horrible,” done at a time when he was suffering from extreme distress but were nonetheless protected under the First Amendment. (The Detroit News, February 27, 2021, by Candice Williams)

An Arizona State student who lost her job as the school’s radio manager after tweeting an account of Jacob Blake’s arrest warrant saying “You’ll be quite disgusted.” Blake was shot by police. The university settled a free speech lawsuit brought by the student, Rae’Lee Klein, for $7,000. She had sought $500,000. (, February 27, 2021, by Brittni Thomason)

A federal district judge in Virginia affirmed the right of citizens to record government workers doing their jobs. Dustin Dyer was recording a search by TSA agents of his family’s belongings when the agents ordered him to stop the recording. He argued to no avail that he was not impeding the search. (Reason, February 25, 2021, by Eugene Volokh)

State senators are objecting to East Tennessee State basketball players kneeling during the national anthem. Coach Jason Shay defended his players saying it was not disrespectful to the flag or servicemen but a call to action to redress wrongs. The senators said the players were representing the university when taking the court so should not express their personal views. (News-Herald, February 23, 2021, by Jonathan Roberts)

A Massachusetts football coach filed a First Amendment lawsuit against three school administrators claiming he was fired for comments he made on the appropriateness of certain curriculum for his seventh grade daughter. (Bangor Daily News, February 24, 2021, by The Associated Press)

A Sterling Heights police officer was placed on leave without pay for a racist post on his Facebook page. Since the post was inflammatory and violated department social media policy, legal experts say it is unlikely the officer can prevail with a free speech defense. (WXYZ Detroit, February 25, 2021, by Simon Shaykhet and Cara Ball)

Suspended Cordova High School principal sued his school district for violating his free speech rights when speaking to students during the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Principal Barton Thorne was making a free speech argument against Twitter and Facebook banning former President Donald Trump. Thorne was returned to work soon after filing the lawsuit. (WMC Action News, February 25, 2021, by Joyce Peterson)