Tuesday, September 16, 2008

PRESS RELEASE: Redwood ACLU Calls For Support Of Lawsuit Against Measure T

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

For Immediate Release

Redwood ACLU Calls For Support
Of Lawsuit Against Measure T

At the regular monthly meeting of the Board of Directors of the Redwood Chapter, American Civil Liberties Union, local civil rights leaders made a formal request for legal aid in support of the lawsuit filed by local businesses seeking to overturn the unconstitutional Measure T. The Redwood ACLU had already taken a position against Measure T on First Amendment grounds of freedom of speech in their Local Election Reform policy approved some time ago.

The case against Humboldt County’s enforcement of Measure T is currently in front of the Federal District Court of Northern California in San Francisco, and although an attempted Temporary Restraining Order against Measure T was not granted today, a preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 22.

“This judicial review is already engendering some bizarre and intemperate reactions from the proponents of Measure T, who have sent out letters to every candidate in local elections this fall seeking to compel them to conform to Measure T whether it meets constitutional muster or not,” stated Redwood ACLU chair Christina Allbright in a letter to the Chair of the Board of Directors of the ACLU of Northern California. “The silence of our local legal community and civil activists on this matter thus far has been deafening, despite the clear and obvious constitutional flaws contained in the measure...We cannot overstate the grave peril we perceive our free speech rights in local elections to be in.”

The letters in question, sent out by the pro-Measure T political committee initiated by Democracy Unlimited and known as the “Humboldt Coalition for Community Rights,” was signed by Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap and sent to local candidates, even including her opponent in Eureka’s race for Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District. The letter likened opponents of their campaign finance-related ballot measure to those who supported slavery and oppose women’s suffrage and the labor movement.

“The proponents of Measure T and especially the Humboldt Coalition for Community Rights by their Co-Chair Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, are renewing the same tactics used in the 2006 election to stifle any dissent regarding the constitutionality of Measure T,” said Redwood ACLU vice chair Greg Allen. “An examination of statements made by Sopoci-Belknap at the Democracy Unlimited website again attacks those with differing legal opinions. This policy has been continued by the HCCR in a letter signed by Sopoci-Belknap, herself a candidate for public office, to direct all candidates for public office in Humboldt County, including her own opponent, to support Measure T even if it is held unconstitutional by the district court.”

In the interests of disclosure, Sopoci-Belknap’s opponent in her Water Board race is Stephen Davies, a local attorney who is on the Board of the local Redwood Chapter ACLU as well as on the Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. Davies abstained from voting on the stance taken today due to his current status as a candidate for public office, and the ACLU remains neutral in regards to his campaign (in accordance with standing ACLU policy against supporting or opposing candidates for public office).

A response from the ACLU-NC on the question of an amicus brief is expected later this week. The Redwood Chapter of the ACLU is also considering the co-sponsorship of a forum on local election reform, both concerning the failure of Measure T and hopes for more constructive reform efforts, to be held after the upcoming general election in November.

For more information, call the new ACLU Hotline at 707-442-4419 or visit redwoodaclu.blogspot.com.

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