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Villarreal v. City of Laredo

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.

Newspapers and a laptop
Monday, Dec 12, 2022

The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch regarding a friend-of-the-court brief ADF attorneys filed Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in Villarreal v. City of Laredo on behalf of Young America’s Foundation to protect free speech by eliminating government officials’ immunity from liability when they clearly violate a citizen’s First Amendment rights:

“Government officials, from college administrators to police officers, must be held accountable for unconstitutional or illegal actions, particularly when their actions are deliberative and calculated, not a split-second decision. Too often, we see government officials hiding behind the ‘qualified immunity’ doctrine to get a free pass after they blatantly violate a citizen’s freedom of speech. We urge the 5th Circuit to affirm the fundamental right to free speech of every American and deter government officials from future obvious First Amendment violations.”

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.