Letter to Peachtree City Council: Freedom to Criticize Government Officials Protected by First Amendment
The ACLU of Georgia sent a letter to the Peachtree City Council regarding its proposed “Revised Indemnification Resolution,” which would allow politicians to spend precious taxpayer dollars on potentially frivolous defamation lawsuits against ordinary citizens who dare to criticize them. The city council slated discussing and voting on its proposal at its meeting on April 18, 2019.
In its letter, the ACLU of Georgia reminded the mayor and city council that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution zealously protects the freedom of speech, especially the freedom to criticize public officials. City resolutions cannot unilaterally rewrite the United States Constitution or otherwise change this strict legal standard.
The U.S. Supreme Court explained decades ago, ample “breathing space” in the marketplace of ideas is “essential” to the “fruitful exercise” of First Amendment rights. For that reason, politicians can only win defamation lawsuits against ordinary citizens on “clear and convincing proof” that a false statement was “made with knowledge of its falsity or with reckless disregard for the truth.”