Free Speech Issues The ACLU of Rhode Island is Involved With - Court Cases, Legislation, News Releases


Protecting Civil Liberties in Rhode Island for Over 50 Years


Free Speech

Protecting the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment has always been in the forefront of the ACLU’s mission. The ACLU of Rhode Island was founded over 50 years ago largely in response to widespread government efforts to censor books, films, and theater.  Today, the ACLU routinely defends the right of citizens to exercise their freedom of speech, of the press, of association, and of petition and protest, no matter how unpopular their opinions may be.

Free Speech in the News

  • Jun, 01, 2018: Some RI School Districts Remain Non-Compliant with Trans Student Policy Requirement
  • May, 09, 2018: Groups Submit Brief Challenging Court’s Denial of Jury List in Murder Case
  • May, 07, 2018: Citing Free Speech Concerns, ACLU Opposes Proposed Airport Advertising Restrictions

View All Free Speech Related News Releases »

Free Speech Related Court Cases

2017: Brady v. Tamburini
Category: Active Case    Fair Administration of Justice    Free Speech    Open Government    Police Practices    Workplace Rights    

About This Case:
This is a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Johnston Police Department on behalf of retired Detective James Brady, an 18-year veteran of the force.  The suit argues that Johnston Police Chief Richard Tamburini violated Brady’s free speech rights by disciplining him after he spoke to the news media about a matter of public concern.

Current Status:
Suit filed in October 2017.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
John W. Dineen

Supporting Documents
2017: RIHAP v. Cranston
Category: Active Case    Discrimination    Rights of the Poor    Free Speech    

About This Case:
This is a federal lawsuit against the City of Cranston over an anti-panhandling ordinance enacted by the City Council in 2017.  The suit was filed on behalf of Francis White, Jr., who is disabled and formerly homeless, as well as the Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project (RIHAP) and two Cranston residents – Karen Rosenberg and Deborah Flitman.  The suit argues that the ordinance violates the First Amendment right of individuals to solicit donations and distribute literature on Cranston roadways.   In April 2016, the ACLU favorably settled a lawsuit against Cranston over a similar ordinance that barred the solicitation of donations from motorists. In that settlement, the City acknowledged that the ordinance violated the First Amendment and halted its enforcement. The 2017 ordinance makes several cosmetic revisions to the original in an attempt to pass constitutional muster.

Current Status:
In August 2017, Judge William Smith issued a temporary restraining order halting enforcement of the ordinance.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
Lynette Labinger

Supporting Documents