Is free speech a defense against corruption in California?

August 9, 2016

justice 2The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that votes cast by elected officials constitute protected free speech. In the decision, the state’s high court sided with former city council members who allegedly voted for a garbage hauling contract in exchange for campaign contributions from the contractor. [LA Times]

Alleging violations of a state conflict of interest law, the city of Montebello sued three of its former council members, as well as its former city manager. Following Monday’s ruling, the city’s lawsuit is at risk of being thrown out.

In a 5-2 decision, Justice Carol A. Corrigan stated votes cast by elected officials are protected by a state law aimed at combatting lawsuits that chill free speech. The law allows defendants to make a special motion to throw out such lawsuits at an early stage, Corrigan wrote in the ruling.

As a result of the ruling, the legal burden falls on Montebello to prove that it is probable the former city officials violated state law in their handling of the garbage contract. The garbage contract has since been rescinded.

Corrigan also stated it is not necessary to sue public officials in their personal capacities in order to challenge the propriety ofa government action. Citizens still have the right to sue the government entity itself, Corrigan wrote.

Justice Goodwin Liu, who wrote the dissenting opinion, stated that state and federal free speech guarantees doe not protect an elected official’s vote.

“The court’s contrary holding will make it harder to enforce civil laws against public corruption,” Liu wrote.

The lawsuit is now expected to return to an intermediate appellate court. If the city were to win the case, the former Montebello officials would have to give up the campaign contributions they received from the contractor.

Raul F. Salinas, who is representing Montebello, said he believes, if returned, the campaign contribution money would go to the city.



  1. SLO_Johnny says:

    We have the best government that money can buy. Why do so many people support handing over more and more control over our lives to the government?
    —- “Power tends to corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” — John Dalberg-Acton

    (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
  2. KimM says:

    Great story! I love 1A (1st Amendment) stories and any and all things Bill of Rights and Constitution. Kudos to the writer and CCN. Thank you.

    (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
  3. shelworth says:

    So, cash for votes (bribes) are legal now? Politicians aren’t even trying to pretend they’re honest anymore.

    (19) 19 Total Votes - 19 up - 0 down
    • SLO_Johnny says:

      This is a civil lawsuit. The city is trying to collect damages from the council members. This ruling wouldn’t apply in criminal cases where politicians receive money in exchange for their votes.

      (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  4. SLOBIRD says:

    This sounds like protection for candidates like Caren Ray (someone attempted to shot into my living room – LIE), and we have too many crazy rantings involving Adam Hill to list but we have all heard, read and seen his disgusting stories. The rulings sounds like it was designed for Adam and Ray, two of the worst politicians to govern in our County – along with Bruce Gibson of course – in the last ten years!

    (17) 19 Total Votes - 18 up - 1 down
  5. Rambunctious says:

    “In a 5-2 decision, Justice Carol A. Corrigan stated votes cast by elected officials are protected by a state law aimed at combatting lawsuits that chill free speech”

    What? so in other words this is the powerful elite circling the wagons to ensure they will be able to enrich themselves at our expense and avoid prosecution for illegal activity and vote selling.
    I get it….

    (18) 20 Total Votes - 19 up - 1 down
  6. Skip Tracer says:

    Speaking of corrupt politicians, Fire Adam Hill.

    (24) 32 Total Votes - 28 up - 4 down

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