ACLU Files Brief Urging Appeals Court to Overturn Ban on Rhode Island Mayor's Radio Show

June 6, 2005 12:00 am

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Elections Board Ban Violates Free Speech Rights of Candidates,
ACLU Charges

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PROVIDENCE, RI–The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island today filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey’s lawsuit seeking an order allowing him to continue to host a radio talk show on WPRO. The lawsuit was filed after the Board of Elections’ ruled that the radio show constituted an illegal campaign contribution under state election law.

“The order issued by the Board of Elections in this case is both overbroad and vague in violation of the First Amendment,” said ACLU volunteer attorney Carolyn A. Mannis, who filed the brief.

In its brief, the ACLU called the Board’s interpretation of the campaign finance laws “an overbroad and unauthorized prior restraint on freedom of speech.” The ACLU also argued that the Board’s attempts to distinguish Mayor Laffey’s situation from other on-going scenarios – including that of a Jamestown resident running for town council who writes a free pet column for a local weekly – could not withstand scrutiny “without having significant and untoward consequences for the exercise of free speech by public officials and candidates for public office.”

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Mary Lisi rejected Mayor Laffey’s request for a temporary restraining order against the Board of Elections’ ruling. The case is now before the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. Oral argument is scheduled in the case on Thursday.

For more information on Mayor Laffey’s lawsuit, go to: /cpredirect/11239.

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