On October 15, CIR filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit in Barke v. Banks, which challenges Section 3550 — a gag law that prohibits statements from public employers that “deter or discourage” union membership. CIR is appealing the district court’s decision to dismiss the suit for lack of standing.
The district court maintains that school boards, city councils, and other local elected bodies are mere agents of the state government, and California has the authority dictate or restrict the speech of its agents. Accordingly, the plaintiffs do not have a First Amendment right that is being infringed by Section 3550.
The district court’s decision runs afoul of longstanding First Amendment doctrine and must be reversed. Local elected officials are not bureaucrats appointed by the state to carry out its objectives; they are public representatives who have a responsibility to speak candidly with their constituents. CIR is asking the Ninth Circuit to enforce the strong protections for free speech that courts have consistently afforded to public officials.