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Center for Individual Rights victory for California free speech

From today's press release:

California resident Julie Waltz' long fight for free speech for opponents of state subsidized housing policies came to a victorious conclusion today, when the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing agreed to implement the "Julie Waltz First Amendment Policy."

The new policy prohibits the Department from investigating citizens for housing discrimination solely on the basis of free speech activity, including speaking at public meetings, writing and displaying flyers, signs, or newspaper articles critical of public housing projects, even if they appear to advocate discriminatory policies or positions.

The new policy sets forth complaint handling procedures that must be followed by Department personnel to ensure that citizens are not subjected to long investigations that have the effect of stifling public criticism of housing policies. The Department agreed to adopt the new policy, seek to have it codified in the California Code of Regulations, publish it on its website and train employees in its use.

The dispute grew out of a 2006 housing discrimination investigation of Waltz that lasted for nearly a year. Waltz had posted yard signs and expressed opposition in other peaceful ways to the state's efforts to place sex offenders and other individuals with a history of behavioral problems in residential group homes, including homes in Phelan, CA, and one next door to her home in Norco, CA. Despite the fact that the complaint did not allege specific facts constituting a violation of housing discrimination laws nor any specific facts that would show that Waltz had illegally threatened group home residents, Department officials inexplicably continued to investigate her.

During the year-long investigation, state investigators told Waltz that her speech violated state fair housing laws, requested that she refrain from her speech activities, and threatened her with prosecution. An investigator also told her that the investigation would end if she removed signs from her yard objecting to the next-door group home as well as signs posted by other people in her neighborhood. Waltz declined to remove the signs.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.