SACRAMENTO, CA and FRESNO, CA (February 27, 2017) — Earlier today Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, issued an order granting plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction in a First Amendment civil rights lawsuit challenging a California statute that broadly restricts the Internet publication of the home address or telephone number of any “elected or appointed official.” The case, captioned Doe Publius and Derek Hoskins v. California Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine, is supported by civil rights advocacy organization Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC).
“We are delighted that Judge O’Neill saw the statute and the State’s enforcement of it for exactly what it was: an unconstitutional restriction on free speech,” said FPC President Brandon Combs following the ruling. Combs added, “especially in times where some government officials are working to pass legislation that would criminalize law-abiding gun owners and eliminate Second Amendment rights, the First Amendment’s protection of law-abiding gun owners’ political speech and protest is more important than ever.”
Today’s order states, in relevant part, that “the Court finds that Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claims that § 6254.21(c) violates the First Amendment as applied to them, and also violates the dormant Commerce Clause as applied to Hoskins. The Court further finds that the remaining preliminary injunction factors weigh in Plaintiffs’ favor. The Court therefore preliminarily RESTRAINS AND ENJOINS Defendant from applying or enforcing § 6254.21(c) against Plaintiffs.”
Plaintiff Doe Publius, who filed under a pseudonym due to a fear of government retaliation and the potential for criminal prosecution under the challenged law, runs a political blog under the alias “The Real Write Wringer” and writes about California politics, civil liberties, and the Second Amendment. Publius (through their Web host, WordPress.com) was sent a takedown letter from the California Legislative Counsel threatening litigation if they didn’t remove a “tyrant registry,” which was posted after Governor Jerry Brown signed six new gun control bills into law on July 1.
Another plaintiff, Derek Hoskins, is the owner of northeastshooters.com, an online forum for discussing firearms issues and shooting sports activities, news, and politics. In addition to his First Amendment claim, he challenged the State’s enforcement of the law under the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause as well as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230). The Legislative Counsel issued a takedown demand to Hoskins based on a discussion thread about the controversy over the takedown demand sent to Publius.
A copy of the Court’s order and relevant case documents can be viewed or downloaded at https://www.firearmspolicy.org/publius_v_boyer_vine