The court finds the discussion of a councilman’s alleged criminal activities is relevant to a discussion of funding that the City intends to give to that councilman’s District. Indeed, this incident is exemplary of why it is unconstitutional to restrict speakers from making personal attacks in City Council meetings; it chills speech critical of elected officials, which is speech at the heart of the First Amendment. In one of the largest cities in the world, it is to be expected that some inhabitants will sometimes use language that does not conform to conventions of civility and decorum, including offensive language and swear-words.
As an elected official, a City Council member will be the subject of personal attacks in such language. It is asking much of City Council members, who have given themselves to public service, to tolerate profanities and personal attacks, but that is what is required by the First Amendment.
While the City Council has a right to keep its meetings on topic and moving forward, it cannot sacrifice political speech to a formula of civility. Dogg “may be a gadfly to those with views contrary to [their] own, but First Amendment jurisprudence is clear that the way to oppose offensive speech is by more speech, not censorship, enforced silence or eviction from legitimately occupied public space.” Gathright v. City of 18 Portland, Or., 439 F.3d 573, 578 (9th Cir. 2006).
The city that silences a critic will injure itself as much as it injures the critic, for the gadfly’s task is to stir into life the massive beast of the city, to “rouse each and every one of you, to persuade and reproach you all day long.” (#PLATO, Five Dialogues, Hackett, 23 2d Ed., Trans. G.M.A. Grube, 35 (Apology).) 24
The court GRANTS summary judgment to Plaintiffs on the as-applied challenge to the Rules of Decorum.