Tennessee Legislators Propose Bill To Ban First Amendment FOR FREEDOMS
Republicans are WILDING OUT. They have tried the First Amendment and decided that actually, it's not for them really, so now they're going to draft a bunch of batshit laws to fix the "problem." Lord only knows how those dipshits are going to break the internet if they ever get back in power, but that's a problem for another day. On this fine spring morning, let's take a little road trip to visit some of our wonderful state legislators to see how they're applying extremely fake solutions to solve the very real crisis of misinformation.
Get in, losers we're going to Tennessee!
Wonkers, meet the "Guilt By Association Act."
WHEREAS, the state has a compelling interest to compel the press to promote the objective truth for the sake of the viability of democracy; for the safety, health, and welfare of our communities; for keeping with the spirit of the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment; and for stopping the press from serving as a slander machine;
A SLANDER MACHINE! Oh, this is gonna be good.
WHEREAS, there has been a growing trend for individuals to abuse process and maliciously prosecute someone they disagree with ideologically by filing spurious cases and controversies in various government venues for ulterior motives, knowing that certain segments of the media that align with their ideology would serve as an accomplice by engaging in a form of defamation in-kind by selectively reporting on the facts of the original case but not on the actual outcome in actions where the petitioner received less relief than originally sought, which cultivates an unjust prejudicial conviction in the court of public opinion, causing the cause to be shunned, avoided, and marginalized, and the media outlet guilty of defamation in-kind to the point that it unduly decreases the quality of life for the accused;
We think that means that bad people are abusing the legal process by bringing junk lawsuits to generate media buzz, which is true. (Hey, Devin!) And these legislators think that makes the media guilty of "defamation in-kind," which is false because OH, COME ON YOU JUST MADE THAT SHIT UP FIVE SECONDS AGO.
Also, First Amendment. But, go on!
WHEREAS, the state has a compelling interest to compel the press to promote the truth, because without truth, there is no freedom—freedom comes from the truth;
Wait, the state can compel speech? I feel like there's maybe some case law on that one ... but let's skip to the "BE IT DULY ENACTED" bit and see what this legislative brain trust has in mind.
"Defamation in-kind" is the failure of a media outlet to report on the outcome of a case and controversy after the media outlet reported on the initial filings of a case and controversy in which the petitioner ended up receiving less relief than originally sought or could have obtained, which could reasonably result in a conviction in the court of public opinion by placing the accused in a false light that causes the accused to be avoided, marginalized, and shunned by the general public;
Oh, hey, they're making a brand new shiny tort! Henceforward, if a media outlet reports on a criminal prosecution or civil filing, it must devote exactly as much ink to the subsequent resolution as it did the initial story.
Or the subject of that reporting can sue the media outlet "demanding that the facts surrounding the final and actual decision or outcome be reported and published as a follow-up to the original reporting." Not only that, but the "accused" can demand that the outlet "take down any unflattering photographs or mugshot of the accused that were used in the original publication." And if the outlet refuses to be told what to publish, the statute authorizes the "accused" to file a civil suit for $10,000 plus costs and actual damages.
But don't worry, Fox News, you are safe! There's an exception if the outlet is "known to publish satire or parody or admits that the media outlet is a fake news outlet that is purposed to traffic in fiction peddling for comedic or entertainment purposes."
Well! We are but a simple legal mommyblogger, so far be it from us to give advice to the Mensa crew trying to enact this hot mess. But if these legislators care to look in their own back yard, they'll find a wonderful lawsplainer on Compelled Speech from their own Middle Tennessee State University. Spoiler Alert: No, just no.
But Rep. Susan Lynn, one of the bill's sponsors, is undeterred by suggestions that her proposed legislation is wildly contrary to 100 years of First Amendment law.
"You know what, I think you ask a lot of attorneys, line them all up, some would say that it's unconstitutional, some would say it's constitutional, some would probably have a mix," Rep. Lynn told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "There's differing opinions."
Which may be true, but some of those attorneys would be WRONG.
But wait, there's more! Because the Times Free Press did a little digging as to how Rep. Lynn and her co-sponsor, Sen. Janice Bowling, might have come up with the idea for this proposal. The paper notes that it's pretty similar to bills pushed in Mississippi and Rhode Island by former lawyer and perpetual anti-gay activist Chris Sevier.
And while there's no reason you would remember that name, a search of the Wonk-archives reminds us that he's that flaming (but not in a gay way!) dipshit who sued Apple for leading him astray with internet porn; he sued A&E network for canceling Duck Dynasty; he sued multiple states for refusing to let him marry a computer; he sued four congressional representatives for establishing the religion of homosexuality with their rainbow flags; and he sued DC for establishing the Black Lives Matter religion by painting a mural. So if you're looking for winning legal analysis, he's your man!
In 2011, Sevier's law license was moved to "disability status" by the Tennessee Supreme Court, which stated that was "by reason of mental infirmity or illness" with the order in effect "for an indefinite period and until further order of this court."
Back in 2013, Sevier was charged by Metro Nashville police with felony stalking and other charges involving country music superstar John Rich and, separately, a 17-year-old girl who worked at an ice cream shop.
He was later convicted of reduced misdemeanor charges of harassment and ordered to stay away from Rich, the girl and a female assistant prosecutor, according to the Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk's website.
Gosh, why would a fine, upstanding paragon of mental health like Sevier be pushing a law that would force the newspaper to print a story about felony charges pled down to a misdemeanor? So mysterious.
Lynn said she couldn't recall the name of the person who brought her the bill, saying her administrative assistant, who was away from the office for family-related issues, would have the information.
"I did talk to him and he told me he was an assistant DA," Lynn said. "And he gave a bill to someone else, two bills to two other legislators."
Informed by a reporter about the 2013 stalking accusations involving Rich and the 17-year-old girl, Lynn said "that's concerning."
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.