Boyden Gray & Associates filed an amicus brief on behalf of fifty-three organizations, federal and state legislators, and individual citizens in support of Eagle Forum of Alabama’s motion to quash a non-party subpoena. The brief explains,
In a transparent and flagrant violation of the First Amendment, the United States served a subpoena on Eagle Forum of Alabama with no legitimate purpose but instead to intimidate and chill the free speech, associational, and petitioning rights of an organization whose views are currently contrary to those of the United States Government. In so doing, the government seeks to force a small non-profit with only one full-time employee to pony up the resources to fight the Department of Justice, the world’s largest law firm. The government’s message is clear and unmistakable: exercise your rights and participate in the political process at your own peril.
The First Amendment prohibits the federal government from “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” As the brief explains, the First Amendment codification protected rights with deep historical roots “driven in part by governments demanding the identity of speakers and the substance of their non-public communications, both to retaliate against prior speech and political organization, and also to deter the exercise of those rights in the future.”
But even after adoption of the First Amendment, American government officials have still sought to punish the right to free speech, association, and political activity by demanding information about private individuals and political organizations. One of the most famous examples was Alabama’s attempts in the 1950s to deter the activities of the NAACP by demanding its full membership rolls. Because “[i]nviolability of privacy in group association may in many circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs,” the demand for membership rolls violated the free speech and associational rights of the First Amendment, applicable to the state via the Fourteenth Amendment.
The full amicus brief can be read here.
Amici include: Advancing American Freedom, Inc., Alabama Center for Law and Liberty, America First Legal Foundation, American Family Association, Inc., Americans United for Life, The Buckeye Institute, Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy, Center for Arizona Policy, Center for Family and Human Rights, Citizens United, Citizens United Foundation, The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternative, Concerned Women for America, Faith & Freedom Coalition, The Family Action Council of Tennessee, Inc., The Foundation for Government Accountability, Foundation for Moral Law, Frontline Policy Council, Independent Women’s Forum, John Locke Foundation, Judicial Watch, Inc., The Liberty Justice Center, Louisiana Family Forum, Manhattan Institute, Michigan Family Forum, Mountain States Legal Foundation, The National Right to Work Committee, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Parental Rights Foundation, Pennsylvania Family Council, Private Citizen, Protect Our Kids, Public Interest Legal Foundation, The Religious Roundtable, Inc., Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, Tea Party Patriots Action, Inc., Tennessee Eagle Forum, Texas Public Policy Foundation, U.S. Congressman Robert B. Aderholt, U.S. Congressman Mo Brooks, U.S. Congressman Jerry L. Carl, U.S. Congressman Barry Moore, U.S. Congressman Gary Palmer, U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers, Alabama Sen. T. Christopher Elliott, Alabama Sen. J.T. “Jabo” Waggoner, Alabama Rep. Chip Brown, Alabama Rep. Arnold Mooney, Alabama Rep. Matt Simpson, Alabama Rep. Tim R. Wadsworth, Caroline M. Aderholt, Allen Mendenhall, and the Hon. Hans von Spakovsky.
These amici consist of a wide range of organizations and individuals whose goals vary. But all agree that the United States’ subpoena in this case is a transparent use of the civil litigation process to chill the speech and political organizing of those who hold views contrary to those of the United States and the Department of Justice.