Putting Words in Their Mouths

On June 26, CIR filed a reply brief in support of its motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the enforcement of Section 3550, a California law that prohibits public employers from criticizing public employee unions.  CIR is challenging Section 3550 as unconstitutional, but while litigation is in progress, public officials in California are subject to the law’s speech restrictions.  Unless an injunction is granted, public employers will continue to face the threat of sanction if they criticize public employee unions during the period of litigation.

The PERB has challenged CIR’s motion, taking the extreme view that the First Amendment does not protect the speech of elected officials in their capacity as agents of a government entity because government entities have the right to control what is said on their behalf.  CIR’s reply demonstrates that, far from mere government agents appointed to deliver particular governmental messages, elected officials are representatives of the people, and as such, their free speech is entitled to strong First Amendment protection.  Accordingly, a legislature may not simply regulate what elected officials can and cannot say.