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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, January 31, 2022

#FREESPEECH in the News January 31, 2021

Bill Lavezzi, Member, The City Club of Cleveland

#FREESPEECH in the News January 31, 2021

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.) Federal judge declines to drop free speech lawsuit against Colorado Springs police

It is possible that Colorado Springs officers violated a man's First Amendment rights when they arrested him for screaming obscenities at police, a federal judge decided. As a result, the civil lawsuit from Michael Sexton will proceed, based in part on one officer's admission that he arrested Sexton simply for saying the F-word repeatedly.

"Under at least one view of the facts that a reasonable jury could adopt, Defendants’ actions violated Plaintiff’s clearly established constitutional rights by arresting Plaintiff for engaging in speech protected by the First Amendment," wrote U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martínez in a Jan. 19 order.

Sexton's lawsuit, filed in July 2020, sought several remedies from the court, including monetary damages, apologies from the officers, changes to city policies and additional training. The officers who arrested Sexton asserted qualified immunity, which shields government officials from liability unless they violate a person's clearly-established legal rights.

2.) Rogan In The Free (Speech) World: Neil Young Wants To Pull Music From Spotify Over Podcast Host Controversy

Neil Young has had many issues with music streaming in the past – primarily over what he sees as inferior audio quality rather than around payment rates to musicians; but he has now demanded that Spotify remove his music because of its hosting of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast.

Young’s ideological opposition is based on what he regards as “fake information about vaccines” being propagated via Rogan’s hugely popular podcast.

He posted an open letter on his own website that was addressed to Frank Gironda, his manager, and Tom Corson, the co-chairman and COO of Warner Records. It has subsequently been removed from his site – but not before large chunks of it were quoted in the media. Rogan and Spotify were both heavily criticised by a collective of more than 260 doctors, scientists and other medical professionals in an open letter earlier this month. They made the same accusations that Rogan was spreading misinformation about the pandemic.

3.) Immigration judges take free speech case to Fourth Circuit

A three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit heard arguments Tuesday over a Trump-era rule that immigration judges say continues to violate their freedom to speak out about government policies on their own time.

Immigration judges challenged a policy requiring a sub-agency of the U.S. Justice Department, the Executive Office of Immigration Review, to preapprove judges’ requests to express their opinions on immigration policies and other matters through published writing or speaking at public events in their personal capacities.

The National Association of Immigration Judges, a union representing nearly 500 immigration judges, filed the federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Virginia. Seeking a preliminary injunction to block the policy, the NAIJ asserted that the policy was vague and violated the First Amendment right of immigration judges to speak publicly in their personal capacities about important issues and concerns.

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