Court to Town: No, You Can't Outlaw Criticism

Town of Ruidoso banned 'negative' comments about government

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 24, 2014 4:11 PM CDT

(Newser) – Imagine a world where people could say only nice things at your local town meeting—by law. If that world sounds just a wee bit problematic to you, you're on the same page as US District Judge James Browning, who yesterday struck down a rule that the village of Ruidoso, New Mexico, set up banning speakers at its meetings from saying anything negative about Ruidoso's government or its employees, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

Browning ruled that while government meetings can impose some reasonable restrictions on speech to keep meetings orderly and moving, they can't suppress a speaker's opinion. "You can block topics, but not viewpoints, and negative is a viewpoint," one open-government advocate explains. It's the second First Amendment case in New Mexico this year; in March, a court ruled that an Albuquerque school board could not expel a frequent speaker who was prone to shouting and once wore an elephant mask to a meeting.

  (Shutterstock)
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