Trial Set for Free Speech Lawsuit — and It’s Soon

The plaintiff in a federal free-speech case with implications for local government meetings finally has a court date: October 21. From the Rock River Times:

The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Rockford resident and former Winnebago County Board chairman candidate Michael Castronovo, alleges multiple violations of his free-speech rights at Winnebago County Board meetings and at Public Works committee meetings.

Some of these alleged violations may be related to the December 2008 change made to county ordinance 2-65 where “zoning items, personnel matters, or any pending or threatened litigation involving the County” became restricted topics for citizens at county board meetings.

Though it hasn’t yet gone to trial, the case has survived several pre-trial hearings. During one of the hearings, the presiding judge confirmed that all government meetings — even committee meetings — must include public comment sessions per the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

The lawsuit itself, however, alleges Constitutional violations of the First Amendment; specifically, prohibitions on the content of public comment.