In 2018 the City of Edgar Springs, Missouri, responded to Rebecca Varney’s diligent reviewing of public records and criticisms of the local government by banning her from entering City Hall. In November 2020 the Freedom Center of Missouri took on Rebecca’s cause, suing the City and arguing that its actions against her had violated multiple constitutional provisions as well as Missouri’s Sunshine Law. Several months ago the Freedom Center filed a motion for summary judgment, pointing out that several of the City’s positions were completely indefensible. And now, just weeks before the City is required to file its response to Rebecca’s motion, the City has finally withdrawn its absurd ban.
“We just won a crucial battle, but we must persevere to ensure that we also win the war,” said Dave Roland, the Freedom Center’s director of litigation. “The City has not conceded that its ban was illegal. To the contrary, we believe this move was designed to prevent the courts from ruling on the legal issues Rebecca has brought before the courts.”
Sometimes when government entities believe they may lose a constitutional battle, they change course in an effort to render the case “moot” (eliminating the dispute between the parties), which prevents the courts from proceeding with the case and issuing a binding ruling. If the government succeeds in mooting a case, it preserves a chance of reinstituting the challenged policy later and also avoids the possibility of having to pay the challenger’s attorney fees. The Freedom Center specifically designed Rebecca’s lawsuit to maximize the likelihood that it could continue even if the City attempted to moot the case.
The City’s response to Rebecca’s motion for summary judgment is due on August 15. The trial court will likely hear arguments on the motion sometime this fall.