Oregon Motorcyclist Scores a Win in Discrimination Case

motorcyclistsAugust 19, 2016 - For 14 years, Ron Godwin worked as the chaplain, religious services coordinator, and volunteer coordinator at the Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility (RVYCF) in Grants Pass. Ron loved his work and was deeply appreciated by the youth he served, the volunteers he worked with, and his coworkers. 

By all accounts, he was a fantastic employee. Ron even received an award for his excellent service, which described him as “the glue” that held the facility together. However, three months later, he was abruptly suspended after being seen riding his motorcycle with members of the Vagos Motorcyle Club and wearing their logo on his jacket. After a brief investigation, the Oregon Youth Authority fired him. 

Freedom of speech and association for government employees is an important right protected by the First Amendment. A public employee cannot be fired because he spends his hours outside of the work environment associating with a certain group unless this association is disruptive to the workplace. In Ron’s case, he was fired because of his lawful expression and association related to the Vagos motorcycle club. Nothing suggested his activities did, or were even likely to, disrupt his work.


Criminalizing Kindness

Springfield Votes to Punish Good Samaritans, Homeless People

by Kelly Simon, Legal Fellow
person on the side of the road with signApril 19, 2016 - Cities in Oregon and across the nation are struggling with how best to address their growing homeless populations. Housing first? More social services? Unfortunately, cities often end up choosing what they incorrectly perceive to be most cost efficient: More policing.

The proliferation of low-level criminal offenses created to “regulate” homelessness has taken various forms—anti-panhandling violations, anti-camping offenses, exclusion zones coupled with trespass laws, and disorderly conduct laws. Now we are seeing a new group targeted with these type of offenses—Good Samaritans.


ACLU Challenges Use of Disorderly Conduct Law Against Protester

rights of protesters imageApril 18, 2016 - Attorneys on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon filed a friend of the court brief in the trial of Teressa Raiford in support of her free speech rights. In August 2015, Teressa Raiford was arrested and booked on charges of disorderly conduct stemming from a protest in Portland that marked the one-year anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown. The brief urges the court to consider the legislative intent behind the disorderly conduct statute. 


Oregon Anti-Bush Protesters Granted Class Status in ACLU Suit

Click Here to Read an Important Notice for People Involved in the 2004 Jacksonville Demonstration

Jacksonville Protesters’ Case Moves Forward After a Disappointing Supreme Court Ruling

November 30, 2015 - A group of protesters in southern Oregon, who are suing local police for excessive force and unlawful arrest, have been granted class action status for some of the claims in their lawsuit. The protesters, who in 2004 were ordered to leave an area where then-president George W. Bush was having dinner in Jacksonville, Oregon, have fought for years to have their claims heard in court.

In October 2004, U.S. Secret Service agents directed state and local police in Jacksonville to move an anti-Bush picket line of more than 250 peaceful demonstrators while allowing a group of pro-Bush demonstrators to remain in the same area undisturbed. The police effort turned violent as the officers clad in riot gear used batons, "less-lethal" munitions, and chemical agents to move the multigenerational group of anti-Bush demonstrators. The ACLU of Oregon filed a federal lawsuit against the Secret Service as well as state and local police agencies, and the individual agents and officers, seeking damages and an injunction against such governmental abuse in the future.

“The police took things too far when they pushed protesters and used pepper spray and batons on the group that included families with young children,”  said Steven Wilker, a lawyer with the Portland-based Tonkon Torp law firm who represents the protestors pro bono on behalf of the ACLU of Oregon.

The protesters have yet to have their case heard in court because the Secret Service, claiming qualified immunity, moved to have the case against them dismissed.


Speech, Trademark, and Rock & Roll

UPDATE (9/29/16): The United States Supreme Court has announced it will hear the case to decide if The Slants have the First Amendment Right to use their name.

The Slants Band photoOctober 1, 2015 - Lawyers from the ACLU of Oregon and the ACLU filed an amicus brief with the Federal Circuit in support of an Asian-American band appealing the denial of a trademark for their name, “The Slants.”

Founded in 2006, The Slants are a household name in the Portland rock scene. Self-labeled the world’s only “Chinatown dance rock band,” the Asian heritage of its four members influences their music, lyrics, and image. The bandmates chose to name themselves The Slants as a reference to their perspective (or ‘slant’) on life as people of color. Additionally, it would help re-appropriate a racially-charged term and remove its derogatory sting. Simon Shiao Tam, the band’s founder and bassist, applied to register the band’s name as a federally recognized trademark. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) denied The Slants application pursuant to federal law thatgives the PTO the authority to reject trademarks it deems disparaging.


Gresham Cop Snatches Phone From Observer During Live Broadcast

Police Violated Free Speech and Free Press Rights During Unlawful Search and Detention of Livestreamer

February 11, 2015 - Carrie Medina firmly believes that police should always act as they would if they knew there was a camera on them. She made it a point to film police encounters she witnessed.

In February 2013, while riding the bus home from work, she heard someone exclaim, “Ooh, that must’ve hurt!” and looked outside to see two police officers arresting a young man. She got off the bus to observe the police activity and started a livestream video with her phone. Watch the video.

Medina was no stranger to livestreaming. She got her start during the Occupy Portland protests and had soon gathered a group of dedicated viewers. With donations from her supporters to help cover expenses, she had also traveled to protests in D.C. and Chicago to livestream video.

“Livestreamers” have played an important role in recent protests both by attracting large audiences in real time and also by capturing moments that can go “viral” afterwards. For example, over 750,000 viewers tuned in live to see the violent eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protestors. And recently in Ferguson, Missouri, livestreaming journalists shared video of the militarized police response toward protestors that shocked the nation.

By the time Carrie Medina was off the bus and in place to video, the young man being arrested was already in handcuffs. She stood several yards away broadcasting and narrating the events. She started to feel that the police were paying her a lot of attention and she backed even further away. That’s when Officer Letsis walked up to her and asked to see her video.


Portland Airport Runs Anti-Clearcut Ad After ACLU Court Victory

Judge had denied Port of Portland’s request to stay decision that Port violated Oregon Constitution when it refused ad because of its content

January 1, 2014 –An anti-clearcutting ad began running at the Portland airport on New Year’s Day following a Multnomah County Circuit Court refusal to issue a stay on its earlier decision that the Port of Portland had violated the free speech rights of a coalition of conservation organizations when it refused to run the ad.

The rulings came in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU Foundation of Oregon which was handled by ACLU volunteer cooperating attorney Tom Christ. The initial Multnomah County Circuit Court ruling on December 13 held that the Port, which manages the airport, had violated the Oregon Constitution’s free expression protections when it rejected the ad because it dealt with a “political” issue.


Scappoose School District Withdraws Policy and Settles ACLU Lawsuit

June 17, 2014 – The ACLU of Oregon announced today that it has settled a lawsuit against the Scappoose School District on behalf of a high school student and her mother over a policy that had prohibited any communications about the school’s dance team by team members or their families.

Under the terms of the settlement, the district agreed that its social media policy had violated the free speech rights of students and their parents. In response to the ACLU’s lawsuit, the school district withdrew the policy in January and worked with the ACLU to finalize an appropriate settlement that included a written apology sent in a recent newsletter to the school community.


Douglas County Reverses Decision to Bar Pipeline Opponents’ Participation at Earth Day Event

Victory for Free Speech and Anti-LNG Advocates

April 21, 2011 - Roseburg, OR – After an ACLU volunteer attorney contacted County Counsel Tuesday and County Commissioners heard testimony from upset pipeline opponents Wednesday, Douglas County changed course and will now allow anti-LNG activists to participate at the Douglas County Earth Day event this weekend in Roseburg.


I [Heart] Boobies

Student Challenges Ban on Wearing “I ♥ Boobies” Cancer Awareness Bracelets


Powell's Books Inc., et al, v. John Kroger, et al

(formerly Powell's Books Inc., et al, v. Hardy Meyers, et al)
Booksellers, Publishers, Librarians and Others Challenge Censorship Law

September 20, 2010 - This morning, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that two Oregon statutes that criminalize distributing sex education and other non-obscene materials to minors are unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment.


Lenz v. Grant County

ACLU Files Challenge to Removal of Elections Worker

July 2010 - The ACLU of Oregon filed suit in U.S. District Court on behalf of a part-time Grant County elections worker who was told she would not be called in to work processing ballots in a recall election because she had signed a petition that led to the election.


State of Oregon v. Babson

Protecting the Right to Protest and Assembly

June 13, 2013 - Today, the ACLU of Oregon stood before the Oregon Supreme Court to defend the rights of the people of Oregon to protest at the seat of government. In the oral arguments in State v. Babson, we argued against the state’s efforts to break up a round-the-clock vigil on the steps of the state capitol by closing the steps at night. The case concerns the state’s ability to shut down specific protests by passing broad prohibitions on the use of public space, and how protestors arrested for violating those prohibitions might challenge those laws in court.


Karuk Tribe v. Trimet

Judge Rules Against TriMet in Free Speech Case

TriMet's refusal to accept a bus ad involving salmon and dams violates constitutional free speech protections.

UPDATE: July 2009 – TriMet has appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals. The parties have fully briefed the matter and are awaiting an oral argument date from the court.


Linn v. Silverton, Perry v. Winston

ACLU Settles Second Sign Ordinance Case

October 2006 - Joining our recent victory against the City of Winston for its unconstitutional sign ordinance is our successful lawsuit against the City of Silverton on behalf of Chris Linn. 


Douglas County Jail Bans Newspapers for Inmates

July 20, 2005 - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon is pleased that Douglas County Sheriff Chris Brown has reversed a rule that prohibited jail inmates from receiving newspapers. The ACLU of Oregon sent a letter to Sheriff Brown, in May, requesting that he to lift this ban.


Oakley and the Lebanon School District

ACLU of Oregon Persuades Lebanon School District to Pull Ban on “Unnatural” Hair Color

June 9, 2005 - LEBANON, OREGON - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon applauds the Lebanon School District’s decision to rescind its policy against unnatural hair color.



ACLU of Oregon's FOIA Request Reveals FBI Files

March 30, 2005 - In response to the ACLU of Oregon's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the FBI has informed us that they do have documents on at least half of our clients named in the request.


Ricochet River

January 2005 - ACLU of Oregon congratulates North Clackamas School Board for keeping author Robin Cody's coming-of-age novel, Ricochet River, in the curriculum.


City of Nyssa v. Dufloth, State v. Ciancanelli

On November 4, 2003, the Oregon Supreme Court heard oral argument and took under advisement two free expression cases, State v. Ciancanelli, and City of Nyssa v. Dufloth. Both cases raise the most important free speech and expression issues that have arisen in Oregon in the last twenty years.


ACLU Files Court Brief in Support of Quashing Reporter Subpoena in Oregon Standoff Trial

February 22, 2017 — The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) filed a ‘friend-of-the-court’ brief today in support of the media’s right to be free from compelled testimony. The civil liberties group’s court filing outlined robust support for reporter John Sepulvado and Oregon Public Broadcasting in their attempt to quash a government subpoena to compel Sepulvado to testify as a witness in the government’s trial against the remaining Malheur Refuge occupiers, U.S. v. Patrick. 

Charlie Hinkle, retired partner at Stoel Rives LLP and ACLU of Oregon cooperating attorney, had this comment:

“In a time when the news media are coming under increasing attack, it is more important than ever that the courts protect the independence of the media. Requiring journalists to function as an arm of the government in prosecuting crime threatens the independence of the media and inhibits their ability to gather the news.”

Mat dos Santos, ACLU of Oregon legal director, had this comment:

“When reporters are called into the courtroom against their will, it is a threat to the First Amendment. The freedom of the press plays a critical role in holding government and public institutions accountable, and in the free flow of information and ideas.”