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Want to know what is on our minds? Find blog posts written here, by the City Club staff, members, and partners. Every week you can find a new edition of #FreeSpeech in the News — a collection of related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century that’s making the news. You’ll also find takes on current events, past forums, and issues surrounding Northeast Ohio. Read on for all things City Club.

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Monday, June 03, 2019

#FREESPEECH IN THE NEWS: JUNE 3, 2019

Bliss Davis, Content Coordinator, The City Club of Cleveland

#FREESPEECH IN THE NEWS: JUNE 3, 2019

As the Citadel of Free Speech here in Cleveland, we work to protect and promote the basis of our democracy by sharing related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century. Here's what's making the news – and what you should know about – in the past week.

1.) Businessman Acquitted in First-of-its-Kind Free Speech Case

On May 24, Birmingham, Michigan resident and businessman, Jeffery Rasawehr, was acquitted of all 13 counts of obstructing official business brought against him by the Mercer County Sheriff's office in Ohio in 2016.

Allegations in the complaint from the Mercer County Sheriff's Office stated that by exercising his right to free speech using non-emergency lines and online message boards, Rasawehr obstructed the Sheriff's office in the execution of its duties. Rasawehr allegedly sent eight messages to the Mercer County Sheriff's Office over the span of eight days using the sheriff's office online form.

During the four-day trial, Sheriff Grey testified that had the messages from Rasawehr been complimentary, he likely would not have faced criminal charges, and none of the Sheriff's office employees who testified said they were obstructed in any specific task.

2.) Supreme Court limits free speech claim in arrests

The Supreme Court has said an individual cannot make a claim that he was arrested in retaliation for exercising his free speech if police had probable cause for his arrest.The ruling is a victory for law enforcement, which argued in favor of a bright line rule that officers could follow that would also defeat possible frivolous claims from defendants objecting to their arrest.

The case concerned a man in Alaska who says he was arrested in retaliation for speech that is protected under the First Amendment. At issue before the court was a question that has divided lower courts: if police have probable cause to make an arrest, does that defeat a claim of retaliatory arrest?

The man, Russell Bartlett, was arrested in 2014 in Alaska while attending the Arctic Man festival, an extreme ski and snowmobile event held annually in the Hoodoo Mountains.

3.) Alabama lawmakers approve campus free speech bill

Alabama lawmakers on Thursday approved legislation requiring public universities to develop and adopt policies protecting campus free speech.

The legislation limits university officials' ability to cancel campus speakers.

The Senate voted unanimously to amend the legislation to push back the implementation date to July 2020. University representatives say the change was needed to give them more time to comply with the legislation and to avoid unnecessary litigation.

The Senate approved the amended legislation 24-1, and the House concurred 73-26. The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Kay Ivey.


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