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ACLU Statement on Recall Petition Lawsuit Filed by Providence City Councilor Kevin Jackson

Posted: October 21, 2016|Category: Free Speech Right to Petition & Protest

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ACLU of Rhode Island executive director Steven Brown issued the following statement today in response to the lawsuit filed yesterday by Providence City Councilor Kevin Jackson, challenging the recall petition process that has been initiated against him by some constituents in his district:

“The ACLU is not familiar enough with the mechanics of the City’s recall mechanism to comment on the specifics of the allegations contained in Councilor Jackson’s complaint. We do agree that certain due process standards are essential before subjecting elected officials to the burdens imposed in having to defend themselves against removal from an elected position they obtained through a democratic process.

“At the same time, we are deeply troubled that, in addition to suing City officials and the Board of Canvassers, which is responsible for overseeing the recall petition process, the lawsuit names as defendants the two private individuals who have been involved in mounting this recall campaign. Their involvement in the suit is completely unnecessary in order for a court to address any legitimate due process concerns raised by the petition process.  Thus, the inclusion of these two individuals as defendants strikes us a classic SLAPP suit – an attempt to silence private citizens for seeking to exercise their First Amendment right to petition government.

“As Rhode Island’s SLAPP suit statute notes, ‘full participation by persons and organizations and robust discussion of issues of public concern before the legislative, judicial, and administrative bodies and in other public fora are essential to the democratic process.’ These two Providence residents should not be forced to defend themselves in a court of law for exercising petition rights granted them by the City Charter. The ACLU urges Councilor Jackson to amend his complaint and remove these two private citizens as defendants.”

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