Two Victories..

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“A party cannot circumvent a court’s holding about a disputed fact by changing course in the midst of litigation—even if the party is a state actor. “

Ninth Circuit Rules in favor of Riley’s Farm

We received news this morning that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed summary judgment and remanded our federal case back to district court, in order to determine material issues of fact regarding our dispute with Claremont Unified School District. (Text of ruling here.) A bench trial will be held to decide whether Claremont maintains a de facto ongoing policy of blacklisting Riley’s Farm.  (After averaging five field trips a year since 2001, Claremont stopped attending in 2018.  A teacher attempted to book a field trip in 2021, but canceled abruptly.)

Our case against Claremont Unified remains active, and you can read about our most recent visit to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals here.  We believe, as today’s ruling confirms, it represents a very encouraging turn of events.  As opposing counsel observes, if we achieve an injunction against Claremont it could mean they would be forced to pay millions of dollars in legal fees, compensating the various law firms who went to bat for us.

Nine School Districts Settle With Riley’s Farm

We’re also pleased to announce that nine different school districts in Southern California — San Bernardino, Monrovia, Azusa, Long Beach, Bonita, Burbank, Rialto, Walnut Valley,  and Culver City — have agreed to settle our federal case against them, agreeing to pay a money settlement to Riley’s Farm.  All of the schools have, furthermore, adopted official policies that discourage viewpoint discrimination (cancel culture) against their employees and vendors.  We believe this represents a substantial victory, not just for us, but for any district employee or vendor who suffers discrimination, blacklisting, or termination as a result of exercising their First Amendment Rights.  It also serves as a warning to other public agencies:  penalize someone for having an “unapproved” opinion and you may be paying their legal fees.

For decades, the courts have recognized that public agencies simply cannot use their enormous power to terminate employees or cancel vendor contracts in retaliation for their off-the-job expression.  An individual, or a private organization, can boycott anyone they like, but if public agencies could define what was “approved” and “unapproved” opinion, there would be no First Amendment.  James Riley holds views and values that are shared by literally millions of Americans, but a few parents and district employees were scandalized by them, and decided to illegally retaliate.

The irony in all of this is that all competent lawyers know this is dangerous territory, and the districts in question — after proudly engaging in cancel culture against Riley’s Farm — began denying their own de facto policy.  It took a steady march through the courts to encourage them to settle with us and change their policy.  We will see, long term, if they renew the living history field trips they enjoyed at our farm for decades.

Riley’s Farm wishes to thank Freedom X and Bill Becker, for his masterful efforts in our behalf.  We also wish to thank the hundreds of Riley’s Farm customers who contributed financially and kept us in their prayers.  We also wish to thank  attorney Thomas Eastmond for encouraging us in our First Amendment fight and taking on the battle during the first years of our struggle.  We are not done yet, but we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  

The Bill of Rights is worth defendingThank you for helping us fight back.

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This post was written by Jim Riley


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