Monday, May 17, 2010

Supreme Court rules on suit filed by speaker gaveled down during public comment period

In a decision released May 17, 2010, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that a Board of Education President, who silenced a citizen who was speaking during a meeting's public portion for no reason other than the unpopular viewpoint he expressed, could subject the Board to damages for violating the speaker's First Amendment rights.

But, the Court held that the plaintiff was not entitled to the $100,000 he received in damages arising out of being silenced because the "emotional distress" he claimed to have suffered was not proven to be anything more than minimal mental anguish or fleeting embarrassment.

Five of the seven justices sent the case back to the trial court for reconsideration of the damages. Two of the seven said that the plaintiff should get no damages and that the trial court should not even consider the question.

The decision, Philip A. Besler, et al. v. Board of Education of West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District, et al., Docket A-81-08, is on-line here.

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