The ACLU of West Virginia is suing state Senate president Craig Blair and three others on behalf of a Greenbrier County woman who was unlawfully ejected from the Senate chamber for attempting to record deliberations on the special session abortion law bill.
The ACLU filed two suits describing the same allegations: one in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, and one in Kanawha County Circuit Court.
The plaintiff is Tiffany Morgan Walton, a construction worker. In addition to Blair, defendants are Senate Assistant Sergeant-at-Arms Grover Miller, Division of Protective Services (Capitol police) Director Kevin Foreman and DPS Officer Van Armstrong.
Walton was at the Capitol on July 29th during a heated debate regarding the Governor’s proposed income tax reduction bill and the abortions measure. According to what I have read Ms. Walton was allowed to video tape the discussion on the tax measure but stopped from recording discussion on HB 302, the abortion measure. Walton, according to an ACLU new release, correctly reaffirmed her right to record the proceeding in a non-disruptive manner. The Capitol police laughed at her and threatened to arrest her if she didn’t leave the gallery.
Nick Ward, an ACLU attorney said that the US Constitution, state law and existing case law clearly allow the public to film such matters. “The Sunshine Law lies at the heart of democracy,” Ward said in a press release. “Without transparency, government cannot be held responsible to the people it serves,” he added.
This latest action is obviously the most glaring but clearly illustrates the attitude of the current leadership in state government. “How dare you question my actions,” seems to be the prevailing thought. They have used the heavy-handed approach anytime someone says or does something they don’t agree with. It happened with the teachers strike. It happens all the time when local newspapers are critical. Why do you think they are so determined to remove legal advertisements from easy access.
This attitude is counterproductive to our constitution and a free and open government. I can only hope this law suite prevails and people like Blair realize that the Government is By the People For the People!!!