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ACLU wins Park Rapids free speech challenge

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ACLU wins Park Rapids free speech challenge
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has announced that on Thursday, Sept 1, in Park Rapids, cooperating attorneys Tim Griffin and Liz Kramer obtained the dismissal of a restraining order at a hearing to challenge it.

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The ACLU-MN represented Gordan Van Wert and Mary Kotowski arguing that the restraining order issued on behalf of Tim Pearson was used improperly to suppress their freedom of speech rights.

After numerous attempts to resolve a personal matter with Pearson, Van Wert and Kotowski exercised their First Amendment right by protesting on the public sidewalk in front of Tim Pearson's funeral home business. Pearson then sought an ex parte harassment restraining order against Kotowski and Van Wert. Pearson was granted a restraining order without notice that stipulated that Kotowski and Van Wert could not come within 3,000 feet of Pearson's business. The area within the restraining order included their medical doctors, the post office and the Hubbard County Court House.

The ACLU-MN argued that the restraining order was used improperly to suppress its clients First Amendment rights, and that the complained-of speech did not meet the threshold required to obtain a restraining order.

At the hearing Sept 1, the court granted the ACLU-MN's request, vacated the restraining order against Van Wert and Kotowski and dismissed the case with prejudice.

"The ACLU-MN is pleased the court responded quickly and justly to our complaint, and we are happy that our clients' rights have been restored," said ACLU-MN attorney Teresa Nelson. "We hope that this will set an example to others who attempt to use Minnesota's harassment restraining order laws to silence constitutionally protected speech."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to defending and expanding individual rights and personal freedom. The ACLU-MN fights to protect civil liberties of Minnesotans through litigation, public education, and lobbying.

Cooperating attorneys in the case, Tim Griffin and Liz Kramer, are with Leonard Street and Deinard. The brief filed in the case is available at www.aclu-mn.org

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Pioneer staff reports
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