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Rhode Island Affiliate, American Civil Liberties Union

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Free Speech
Court Cases Over the Years

The Right to Petition and Protest

The American Civil Liberties Union is actively dedicated to the preservation of the right to petition the government and to voice opposition to government policies without interference. Below are some of the cases in which the R.I. Affiliate has been involved over the years:


1973: American Friends Service Committee v. McQueeney

Restraining order issued by federal court permitting a peace group to set up a “tiger cage” display on Providence downtown shopping mall.

1974: R.I. Workers Association v. Donnelly

A court order was issued against city officials to allow a symbolic soup and bread line demonstration outside of a fund-raising affair being attended by the President.

1975: Reilly v. Noel

Successful challenge in federal court to attempt by Governor to prohibit protesters at the State House from peacefully singing.

1976: Toward a Gayer Bicentennial Committee v. McQueeney

Restraining order issued by federal court on behalf of a gay group originally denied a permit to hold a parade in Providence.

1986: Nestel v. Moran

Habeas corpus petition filed in state Supreme Court on behalf of courtroom spectators summarily sentenced to jail for turning their backs to a judge.

1987: Kellam v. Burnley

Successful federal lawsuit on behalf of protesters barred from operating a sailboat with peace banners offshore of Electric Boat.

1990: Town of Barrington v. Lemoi

Successful representation of a person fined $13,000 for displaying political signs in his house window, in violation of an ordinance barring such signs from residential property.

1994: State v. Katzberg et al.

Defense assistance of protesters arrested for trespassing after attempting to distribute literature during a celebration of a nuclear submarine launch; the charges were dismissed.

1996: Hometown Properties v. Fleming

Successful defense representation of a SLAPP suit victim, who was sued for writing the Department of Environmental Management with concerns about a local landfill.

1998: Global Waste Recycling, Inc. v. Mallette

Successful representation of a couple sued for defamation for statements made to the media expressing environmental concerns about a company’s recycling activities.

2001: Fishbach v. Zurier

Successful lawsuit challenging a Providence School Board policy barring the public from mentioning the name of any person during the public comment portion of School Board meetings.

2003: Alves v. Palazzo

“Friend of the court” brief filed in this SLAPP suit appeal in support of a person who was sued by a state Senator for making critical comments about him in letters to the editor of the local paper.

2006: Bilodeau v. Daly-Labelle

Successful representation of a resident sued for defamation by a political candidate for distributing a political flyer critical of the candidate.

2008: State v. Rhodes and Freitas

Successful defense representation of two members of an advocacy group arrested for disorderly conduct for using a bullhorn at a demonstration in front of the State House.

2011: Reilly v. City of Providence

Federal lawsuit on behalf of a Providence resident who was threatened with arrest for leafleting on a public sidewalk.


See Other Highlighted Free Speech Cases:

Return to: Recent Free Speech Cases


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