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Gov't officials should be held accountable for First Amendment violations

ADF attorneys join diverse coalition of legal advocacy groups in filing friend-of-the-court brief

Friday, May 19, 2023

ST. LOUIS – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys joined a broad coalition of organizations in filing a friend-of-the-court brief Friday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit urging it to preserve the freedom of all Americans to file civil rights’ litigation when their constitutional rights have been violated. ADF attorneys joined Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies, Reason Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri in filing the brief.

“Alliance Defending Freedom, as well as the diverse coalition of other legal advocacy groups we joined in filing this friend-of-the-court brief, regularly help or advocate for the ability of average American citizens to challenge government officials who have infringed on their constitutionally protected rights,” said ADF Legal Counsel Mathew Hoffmann. “When government officials violate someone’s First Amendment freedoms, they should be held accountable for their actions and pay the necessary attorney’s fees. We urge the court to protect every American’s right to pursue legal action to vindicate their constitutionally protected freedoms.”

In the case, Henderson v. School District of Springfield R-12, two employees of Springfield Public Schools in Missouri sued the school district over mandatory diversity and inclusion training that they claim violated their constitutional rights. A federal court ruled in favor of the school district and then ordered the employees to pay the school officials’ attorney’s fees. The two employees appealed those decisions to the 8th Circuit.

In their brief, the legal advocacy groups explain that they all regularly represent or advocate for average Americans, many of whom are not able financially to cover their own legal fees—let alone those of the government, who are bringing civil rights claims against government officials. They write that, “if, as here [in Henderson], these clients risk bearing the legal fees of government defendants, they would hesitate to file suit, chilling the protection of their own civil rights and the development of the law.” The groups note that the attorney’s fees award in this case defeats the goal of civil rights legislation enacted by Congress that encourages injured Americans to remedy constitutional wrongs in federal court.

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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