A gun rights group is backing a lawsuit in federal court brought by a blogger whose post was removed from WordPress after pressure from the California Legislative Counsel.
The blogger, identified only in court documents as Doe Publius since they are facing a potential $1,000 fine, on July 5 posted a blog entry criticizing the Legislature’s vote on a 13-bill gun control package ushered through Sacramento by Senate President Kevin de Leon.
As part of the post, the blogger included the names, home addresses and home phone numbers of the lawmakers who voted in favor of the measures, labeling it a “tyrant registry” and remarking, “These are the people who voted to send you to prison if you exercise your rights and liberties.”
The list, of 14 state senators and 26 assembly members, was obtained by the blogger through searching public records online.
When the list was brought to the attention of the California Office of Legislative Counsel, the public agency that provides legal services to the state legislature, they sent WordPress an official letter citing state law against posting the home address or telephone number of any elected or appointed official online. In an effort to comply against threats of litigation from the state, WordPress removed the post with the database on July 11.
This led the blogger, with the support of the Firearms Policy Coalition, to file suit last week in federal court naming Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine in her official capacity as defendant.
In the complaint, attorney Eugene Volokh, a UCLA constitutional law professor, argues the post was political advocacy protected by the First Amendment, and the state’s pressuring of WordPress to remove it an unconstitutional violation of the blogger’s civil rights.
“Put simply, Plaintiff is free to publish speech critical of the government and air grievances in the form of Plaintiff’s choosing, and the First Amendment constrains the government from determining the content of Plaintiff’s criticism,” noted Volokh.
The professor noted that even the dissemination of addresses is protected, saying, “Beyond Plaintiff’s expressive purpose, however, the publication of legislators’ addresses and phone numbers can serve a variety of other lawful purposes. For example, residential picketing is often constitutionally protected and concerned citizens can hardly picket demanding action from their legislators without knowing where they live.”
The FPC feels the case is just.
“Our Publius lawsuit argues that a State of California statute and the Legislative Counsel’s demand letter threatening legal action and penalties unconstitutionally forced WordPress into taking down the material,” said FPC President Brandon Combs in a statement emailed to Guns.com. “Our member’s truthful, non-threatening speech was attacked mere days after the elected subjects of their speech carpet-bombed the Bill of Rights in the largest legislative attack on Second Amendment rights in decades.”
Guns.com has reached out to the Office of Legislative Counsel for statement or comment and will update this piece if one is received.