Carolina attorney general loses round in campaign free speech case

A federal district judge ruled that a county district attorney could continue her pursuit of charges against North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein under a state law banning campaign lies. The county attorney found Stein’s 2020 television ad in violation of the law. Stein filed a lawsuit to stop the charges, contending that the campaign law violates free speech rights. (The Carolina Journal, August 16, 2022, by CJ Staff)

Stein had asked Judge Catherine Eagles for an injunction while the 4th U.S. Circuit of Appeals considers the case, but the judge ruled that he was “not likely to succeed on the merits of …. [the] facial constitutional claim.” The state law made it a misdemeanor to make false reports in an election with reckless disregard for truth or falsity to hurt the chances of an opponent. Eagles wrote about the law, “Assuming a more exacting level of scrutiny applies because the statute is directed to political speech, the statute advances compelling state interests in protecting against fraud and libel in elections and is narrowly tailored to serve those interests.” (The Richmond Observer, August 11, 2022, by Carolina Journal Staff)