ACLU Notifies Sussex County Council of Free Speech Violation

The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware (ACLU-DE) has sent a letter to the Sussex County Council explaining that council rule 17.6 is unconstitutional and must be rescinded.

The rule requires that individuals wishing to address the council during the “Additional Business” portion of a council meeting must agree in writing that they will not criticize members of the council, county employees or county subcontractors for matters that are related to personnel decisions or are personal in nature.

Section B of Rule 17.6 stipulates that matters addressed during the Additional Business portion of a council meeting must fall within the jurisdiction of the council and pertain to legitimate Sussex County business. These limitations are entirely appropriate and permissible.

Political speech is fully protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” said Kathleen MacRae, ACLU-DE executive director. “ The reason we have free speech rights is so that citizens can discuss governmental affairs and when necessary, criticize the government and their representatives. The Sussex County Council may put limits on the general topics to be discussed during a council meeting, but they cannot stop someone from speaking their mind within that framework.”

UPDATE: At the end of June 2011, Sussex Co. Council modified their rules to comply with the First Amendment.

Read letter from ACLU-DE regarding Sussex Rule

Read The News Journal article about the Sussex Rule

Read The News Journal article about modifications to Sussex Co. Council Rules

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