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Villarreal v. Alaniz

Description:  An independent journalist in Laredo, Texas published two news stories identifying victims’ names after receiving confirmation of their identities from a Laredo police officer. Seven months later, police arrested Priscilla Villarreal for violating a Texas statute, justifying the arrest because the victims’ identities were not “public information” and the journalist benefitted from publishing the stories by gaining additional social media followers. Villarreal is suing the city for violating her First Amendment rights.

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Friday, May 24, 2024

The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Vice President for Appellate Advocacy John Bursch regarding a friend-of-the-court brief ADF attorneys filed Friday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to grant review in Villarreal v. Alaniz, a case in which a citizen journalist is challenging government officials who claim they can evade responsibility after violating her First Amendment rights:

“All government officials have a duty to uphold the Constitution, and they are not immune from being held responsible if they illegally punish a citizen simply because she asks questions and publishes facts that they don’t like. The First Amendment guarantees journalists the freedom to both seek out and disseminate information, which allows a free press to keep government officials accountable. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit’s decision to ignore these pillars of First Amendment law will have a tremendous chilling effect that reaches far beyond the ability of journalists to expose government corruption. We are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 5th Circuit’s decision and affirm the ability of citizens to speak and publish information of critical value in a free society.”

ADF attorneys filed the brief on behalf of Young America’s Foundation—a national nonprofit organization committed to ensuring that increasing numbers of young Americans understand and are inspired by the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values—and Manhattan Institute for Policy Research—a nonpartisan public policy research foundation whose mission is to develop and disseminate new ideas that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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ABOUT John Bursch

John Bursch is senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy with Alliance Defending Freedom. Bursch has argued 12 U.S. Supreme Court cases and more than 30 state supreme court cases since 2011, and a recent study concluded that among all frequent Supreme Court advocates who did not work for the federal government, he had the 3rd highest success rate for persuading justices to adopt his legal position. Bursch served as solicitor general for the state of Michigan from 2011-2013. He has argued multiple Michigan Supreme Court cases in eight of the last ten terms and has successfully litigated hundreds of matters nationwide, including six with at least $1 billion at stake. As part of his private firm, Bursch Law PLLC, he has represented Fortune 500 companies, foreign and domestic governments, top public officials, and industry associations in high-profile cases, primarily on appeal. He received his J.D. magna cum laude in 1997 from the University of Minnesota Law School and is admitted to practice in numerous federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.