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First Amendment Under Siege

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  • jail4judges
    J.A.I.L. News Journal ____________________________________________________ Los Angeles, California May 10, 2002
    Message 1 of 1 , May 10, 2002
      J.A.I.L. News Journal
      Los Angeles, California                                                 May 10, 2002


      First Amendment Under Siege
      Our very own Dottie Lafortune, along with Phil Castora, both long time members of Maine JAIL4Judges, (pcastora@...) are the subject of the below Journal Tribune news articles.
      The battle lines for the First Amendment were drawn last year when Dottie decided to go public with her message of local government corruption by public officials on her Public Access T.V. show called "The Maine Forum." Mayor Donna Dion stepped in to close down her T.V. program.
      J.A.I.L. strongly applauds the great work done by these two JAILers. By way of background before we get into the main article, we provide the following as a lead in article.
      Journal Tribune
      Biddeford, Maine
      Thursday, October 18, 2001

      Lafortune's show goes on, and so does her lawsuit

      By MEG HECKMAN / Journal Tribune Staff Writer

      BIDDEFORD - One night after the City Council banned her from its public access TV station, producer Dorothy Lafortune took to the airwaves and there was nothing the city could do.

      The cablecast was made possible by an agreement reached Wednesday afternoon in federal court in Portland. In the "standstill agreement," the city said it would not enforce the sanctions it levied against Lafortune while her First Amendment lawsuit against Biddeford goes forward.

      City Solicitor Harry Center II and Maine Civil Liberties Union attorney David Lourie, who represents Lafortune, reached the deal after U.S. District Court Judge D. Brock Hornby told them he had grave doubts, Lourie said, that the city followed its own procedures when dealing with Lafortune.

      It was the attorneys' second round in front of Hornby this week. On Tuesday - the day of the scheduled council vote - Lourie asked the court to stop the vote from taking place. Hornby ruled in favor of the city, according to Center, because he felt it was not appropriate to intervene in a city's operations.

      After a series of public protests from the podium Tuesday night the council voted 5-4, with Mayor Donna Dion breaking the tie, to ban Lafortune.

      But, after Wednesday's trip to the federal courthouse, the cameras rolled anyway.

      "We had quite a crew there last night," Lafortune said about her special two-hour "Maine Forum" program. "We had more people than usual."

      The lineup included representatives from some of the national civil liberties organizations that have flocked to City Hall during the last few months. They discussed the local and national implications of the pending lawsuit.

      The phones kept ringing too, Lafortune said, with residents calling in to voice their support of both the show and the agreement that allowed it to stay on the air.

      Tony Alaimo, the city's cable access director, said several "irate" calls came in to the show as well.

      The fate of "Maine Forum" was first called into question in July when the mayor pulled an episode featuring Councilor Philip Castora alleging that city officials, bankers and an auctioneer conspired to take property from Lafortune's mother Marion in the mid-1990s.

      Now for the main article:
      Magistrate issues split opinion on Lafortune suit
      By MEG HECKMAN / Journal Tribune Staff Writer / May 2, 2002

      PORTLAND - A federal magistrate says the city's practice of previewing tapes and requiring permission from anyone mentioned on public access cable TV is a form of illegal censorship.

      But while the 20-page opinion issued Tuesday by Magistrate Judge David Cohen, in the form of a recommendation to the U.S. District Court, supports Lafortune's claim that the city violated her free speech rights, it rejects her claims the City Council acted as an illegal court.

      Cohen's opinion follows months of legal and political wrangling in the courts and Biddeford City Hall over the free speech and due process rights of producer and city government gadfly Dorothy Lafortune.

      City Solicitor Harry B. Center II today described Cohen's recommendation as "very favorable to the city" because it vindicated the City Council's actions and denounced Lafortune's claims of "foul play."

      David Lourie, Lafortune's attorney, called the recommendation "splitting the baby" and said he plans to object to the due process portions of the document. ....

      She sued the city late last year for allegedly violating her constitutional rights to free speech and due process when it banned her program, "The Maine Forum," from broadcast after a controversial July 4, 2001 show.

      The hour-long program featured Lafortune's friend and former City Councilor Philip Castora accusing city officials, including Mayor Donna Dion, former Mayor James Grattelo and Center of conspiring to take property from Lafortune's mother. An auctioneer was also named by Castora.

      Originally, the mayor said she pulled the tape from the rebroadcast schedule because Castora's allegations were libelous. Later she said the tape was pulled because Lafortune did not have permission from the auctioneer to use his name in the broadcast. Dion said Lafortune was in violation of the public access users' agreement, which requires producers to get permission from anyone who "appears" in the program.

      Cohen said this part of the agreement, as well as the mayor's request to view the show's tapes, was a form of censorship.

      Center said the magistrate's opinion on the user's agreement will most likely lead to some adjustment of the document. "That's why the council needs to look at the ordinance," he said. The case is expected to go to trial in federal court early this summer.

      The lesson to be learned here is a case in point when J.A.I.L. states that all issues of corrupt government are ultimately decided by the courts, that it is always a judge at some level in some court that ultimately decides to cover for, and protect the propagation of, all government corruption, no matter what that corruption may be. 
      We have afore used the illustration of a five year child in a medical waiting room. If the child kicks a waiting patient, and continues in other devious misdeeds, who is the blame - the child, or his mother? Therefore, if you think something just is not right in government - don't look to government - look to the judges. They are the ones responsible.

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