First Amendment Rights are Alive and Well in Oklahoma Panhandle
November 20, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Brady Henderson, Legal Director; (405 524-8511; firstname.lastname@example.org)
BEAVER, OKLAHOMA— At the urging of ACLU of Oklahoma’s legal team, Municipal Court Judge Robert Jaques ordered the dismissal of a charge of Disturbing the Peace, brought against a local resident for chastising Beaver’s Mayor. Linda Fisher, a longtime resident of the small panhandle community of Beaver, had never expected to be charged with a crime merely for speaking her mind following a city council meeting in August.
Fisher, along with other residents in Beaver, is concerned with the financial management by the Mayor and the town’s Board of Trustees. Following a board meeting on August 15th, Fisher warned board members and the mayor that voters of Beaver that at the next election, they would be “going down.” Rather than taking in stride the criticism that comes with public office, Beaver’s Mayor, Denise Janko, saw to it that Fisher was charged with the misdemeanor offense.
At Fisher’s trial on November 19th, ACLU of Oklahoma Legal Director Brady Henderson made a motion to dismiss the charge, which was granted by the Court after hearing lengthy argument.
“Judge Jaques’s decision follows countless rulings from higher courts upholding a citizen’s right to free speech even when that speech is unpleasant or annoying to public officials,” said Henderson. “In this case, there was little question that Mrs. Fisher’s comments were a protected exercise of freedom of speech.”
The fight for the future of the First Amendment in Beaver may not be over. The Town Board of Trustees has recently changed its meeting agendas to eliminate public comments and citizen participation from board meetings.
“The Beaver Board of Trustees’ campaign to shut their own citizens out of government is disheartening to say the least. Our victory in Linda Fisher’s case is an important one, but is only part of what will be needed to preserve the rights of Beaver’s residents,” continued Henderson.
The ACLU of Oklahoma is one of 53 affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union, a national not-for-profit, non-partisan, organization founded in 1920. Its purpose is to protect those rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances, freedom of association, the right to privacy, the right to due process of law and the right to equal protection under the law.