A Very Special Thank-You
Friends of the Freedom Center,
Ryan Gran and Tiffany Lewis first contacted me in 2009, when I was still working full-time with the Show-Me Institute. They explained that the Missouri Real Estate Commission was trying to shut down their business, Kansas City Premier Apartments, even though all they did was share truthful information about rental property. They also told me they were looking for an attorney who would fight on their behalf out of a shared conviction about the fundamental importance of individual liberty, not just because they represented another paycheck. After hearing about their situation and meeting them in person, I knew they were just the sort of clients I had been looking for to kick off my effort to reinvigorate Missouri courts’ respect for constitutional principles and I agreed to represent them.
Last summer their case went to trial, and in front of the judge the government’s witnesses testified that there was no evidence that any of the information KCPA provides is either false or misleading, and the Real Estate Commission’s expert witness also said that he could think of no circumstances in which a citizen would be harmed by receiving that information. Despite this testimony, the trial judge ruled against us and prohibited KCPA from accepting any money from the property owners who advertise through their website. Despite this crippling injunction, Ryan and Tiffany pledged to keep fighting and we appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court.
As most of you know, yesterday we finally got to make our case to the state’s highest judicial authority. (An audio recording of yesterday’s argument is available online.) We explained to the Missouri Supreme Court that, while the First Amendment allows speech to be restricted when the government has demonstrated that the restriction is necessary to prevent a real, clearly identified harm, the government had in this case not only failed to show such a harm, it argued that it had no responsibility to do so. Indeed, the Assistant Attorney General (who, like all attorneys, has taken an oath to uphold the U.S. and Missouri Constitutions) argued that KCPA’s communication of truthful, harmless information could not be considered “speech” worthy of the First Amendment’s protection. The Freedom Center’s briefing and arguments have shown that nothing in the law supports the Attorney General’s position, and we believe that we have equipped the Missouri Supreme Court to decide this case in favor of broader liberty for all Missourians. We should hear the Court’s decision in two or three months.
Ryan, Tiffany, Jenifer, and I would never have made it to this point without your encouragement and support. The effort to restore the principles of individual freedom and limited government is a marathon, not a sprint, and we could not ask for better, more enthusiastic supporters as we run this race. We wanted to offer a very special thanks for your prayers, pats on the back, recommendations, and financial support, which have allowed us to reach this major milestone for our young organization and for the advancement of liberty in this state. We hope that it will be just the first of many to come.
Director of Litigation
2 thoughts on “A Very Special Thank-You”
I just now listened to the whole recording. Very interesting. I had never before listened to this kind of court hearing. It appears that it takes great patience, as well as presence of mind, to conduct one’s self in front of a panel of judges. Your point came out very clearly, but I’m not sure all the judges grokked it very quickly.
Has there been a ruling?
Thanks for the compliment! Unfortunately, we lost by a 5-2 vote. The majority did not reference any of the dozens of U.S. Supreme Court cases that we cited. It also specifically said that we had not presented any examples of cases in which the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down an occupational licensing statute because it violated the First Amendment. If you listened to the argument, you’ll know that I directly addressed this point in our rebuttal, identifying three such cases. But to no avail. It was as if the majority hadn’t ever read our briefs and didn’t attend the oral argument. We’re planning to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.