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California Turned a Constitutional Shield Into a Government Sword

December 5, 2022

California citizens who sue the government for violating their rights had better watch out: under a bizarre state law called “Anti-SLAPP,” they risk being sued by the government for doing so, on the theory that they’re violating the government’s own constitutional rights.

You read that right: California courts have ruled that government itself has a right to free speech, and therefore that anyone who goes to court to challenge the legality of something the government does risks being punished for trespassing on itsexpressive freedom.

At least, that’s the argument lawyers for the city of Rancho Mirage are making in an ongoing lawsuit in which property owners challenged the constitutionality of an ordinance barring them from renting out their houses. Viewing that ordinance as a violation of their constitutional right to private property, they filed a lawsuit—only to have the city respond by filing an “Anti-SLAPP” motion against them. The city argues that their true motive in the case was to censor the government’s free speech.If granted, such a motion would require the property owners to pay the city’s legal bills.

Read the rest of the op-ed at The Orange County Register.

Timothy Sandefur is the Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute, which has filed an amicus brief urging the court to throw out the city of Rancho Mirage’s motion.



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