A few months ago the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to Taylor Swift to denounce the pop star’s legal defamation threats against a blogger who wrote about white supremacists’ affinity for her music.
In February, the ACLU filed an amicus brief in defense of comedian John Oliver, who was being sued by a West Virginia coal exec for roasting him on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight. One of the sections in that brief, titled “You Can’t Sue People for Being Mean to You, Bob,” contains a message that the ACLU is now relaying to the head of a South Bay charter school official who threatened to sue Santa Clara County Board of Education trustee Claudia Rossi.
Fly wrote about the flap back in January, when Voices-Morgan Hill Executive Director Frances Teso sent a legal notice calling Rossi’s critical line of questioning before voting against the charter false and defamatory. Rossi stood by everything she said at that December board meeting, and the school got its charter renewed in a 4-2 vote regardless. But Teso used a retributive tactic that ACLU legal fellow Bilal Malik calls a threat to open discourse.
“For Ms. Rossi, who works full time as a registered nurse and has a family, the threat of personal liability for damages is similarly no laughing matter,” Malik wrote in an ACLU blog last week. He added that, “Open and robust debate and discussion is a prerequisite for public trust in government.”
Rossi, for her part, jokes about being mentioned in the same breath as Swift. “It’s a great day when an RN would be elevated to the heights of a pop singer,” she quips.
Thankfully for Rossi, Teso’s threat never translated to a lawsuit.
“Consider the irony of the head of a charter school called Voices threatening to silence my voice,” Rossi adds. “It’s laughable but very sad.”