At Aleshire & Wynder, we tackle complex issues of free speech, religious freedom, the right to privacy, search and seizure, equal protection, the Establishment Clause, eminent domain, and other rights and obligations under the United States and California Constitutions for our public agency clients. We expertly assist our public clients by drafting policies and ordinances to ensure minimal exposure, while implementing their decisions and advising them on their options to navigate this complex legal landscape.
Public agencies routinely face a variety of issues relating to the regulation of free speech, such as signs on private property, billboards, conduct at public meetings, special events on public property, government speech, visitor conduct at public facilities, leafletting and picketing, free speech rights of public employees and of elected and appointed officials, adult businesses, the rise of so-called “First Amendment auditors,” and regulation of protected speech at events open to the public.
Public agencies also at times need to address constitutional questions concerning both the freedom to practice religion as well as a prohibition on the government establishment of religion. The intersection of these rights can create uncertainty for public agency actions. These include issues involving religious invocations at public meetings, the public display of religious symbols, equal treatment and due process for religious practices, and the use of taxpayer funds for activities related to religious practice.
Expertise in Action:
A&W has drafted and provided detailed review of updated sign codes to meet current free speech limitations. We help our clients navigate the complexities of these laws so that they can adopt sign codes tailored to each client. We assist in drafting policies and regulations relating to special events, advertising on public property, and public information kiosks, among other issues.
The advent of the internet and social media has made life even more complicated for public agencies, especially as this area of law is ever-evolving: What limitations, if any, can an agency place on their social media accounts? How should public entity officials and employees navigate their own social media accounts? At A&W, we assist our public agency clients to craft and periodically update social media policies that meet their needs and will withstand constitutional challenge.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, local, state and federal governmental entities and officials ordered restrictions on gatherings and, in some cases, required vaccines to try to lessen the spread of the virus and protect public safety. Our office worked with all our clients to ensure a constitutional balance between ensuring the health and safety of their employees and citizens, and their free exercise of religion and right to peaceably assemble.
Although free speech law does not explicitly mention the right of access to courtrooms, the Supreme Court has held the right to attend criminal proceedings is implicit in freedom of speech and serves an important function in a democratic society by enhancing trial fairness and its appearance, we have assisted our clients to regulate their jails to ensure inmates’ right to access courtrooms are not infringed.