Legal Battle Over 'False Statement' Laws Ratchets Up

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 2, 2011
CONTACT:
Kerry Brown at (703) 470-1926 or kbrown@sba-list.org

Eighth Circuit Court Strikes Down Law in Minnesota Similar to Ohio Law Challenged by SBA List

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) fired back in court Friday against former Ohio Rep. Steve Driehaus, who lost his re-election bid and hit the group with a defamation lawsuit claiming “loss of livelihood.”  In addition to the brief answering Driehaus’ claims, the pro-life group filed a reply brief in Ohio federal court that aims to overturn the current “false statement” law and spur challenges to similar ones in other states.  The group’s filing comes on the heels of an Eighth Circuit Court ruling that struck down a similar law in Minnesota. 

“The ruling by the Eighth Circuit Court makes clear that any political speech is protected by the First Amendment,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the SBA List. “No politician, bureaucracy, or court should have the power to silence the right of citizens to criticize their elected officials. The proper place for public policy debate is in the public square.”

Ohio’s election law empowers state officials to enforce stiff fines—even prison time—for criticism of candidates that they deem to be “false.”  Similar laws exist in other states and could be overturned if the group’s challenge is successful.

The legal battle with the former congressman stems from a December 3 lawsuit alleging that the SBA List cost Rep. Driehaus his job by educating constituents about his vote in favor of taxpayer funding of abortion in the health care bill. 

SBA List’s arguments have gained widespread acceptance.  The ACLU of Ohio, in an amicus brief filed last October, came to the group’s defense, declaring unequivocally, “The people have an absolute right to criticize their public officials, the government should not be the arbiter of true or false speech, and the best answer for bad speech is more speech.”  The lawyer who wrote the brief is an abortion rights advocate.

The Susan B. Anthony List spent $11 million during the 2010 midterm election cycle. Overall, the SBA List was involved in 90 races including 62 wins and 28 losses. Successes included: defeating 15 of 20 so-called “pro-life” Democrats who voted for abortion funding in the health care reform bill; increasing the number of pro-life women in the House by 70 percent; filling the void of pro-life women in the U.S. Senate and increasing the number of pro-life women governors from one to four. 

           

For further information, please contact Kerry Brown at (703) 470-1926 or kbrown@sba-list.org.

 

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