Free Speech Victory!
At the core of White Coat Waste Project (WCW) is a belief: taxpayers deserve to know how our money is being spent.
Our strategy to shut down government labs has always been F.E.D.. Using the Freedom of Information Act, we FIND wasteful and cruel taxpayer-funded animal experiments. Then we EXPOSE them to the press and to the public — because taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent. Finally, we work hand-in-hand with elected officials to DEFUND the waste.
But it has to go in that specific order — we can’t defund white coats if we can’t expose them. That’s why the First Amendment is paramount: it’s what allows WCW to save animals from wasteful government labs.
But what happens when government white coats don’t want to let us share how your tax money is being wasted?
We take them to court.
Usually, we win.
But before we all start celebrating, let us fill in some quick background for you.
Back in 2017, we tried to run this advertisement on city-owned buses in Richmond, VA to expose a notorious Department of Veterans Affairs puppy experimentation lab that, among other things, injected latex into puppies’ arteries to induce heart attacks:
The Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) — the City of Richmond’s public transportation system — refused to run the ads, claiming they violated the agency’s ban on so-called ‘political’ speech. To us, this appeared to be an unlawful attempt to protect Richmond’s white coats from public scrutiny over taxpayer-funded puppy abuse.
So we sued, claiming that the ban was arbitrary and a violation of our First Amendment rights. At the time, Matthew Strugar, a civil liberties attorney representing WCW Project in this case (and many others), told the Richmond Times-Dispatch “The policy against so-called political ads allows the government to pick and choose what views people can express.”
Now, after a l-o-o-o-o-o-n-g time litigating (and a WCW win and subsequent appeal), we finally got good news: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found that GRTC’s ad policy blocking WCW’s ads was unconstitutional. The court’s opinion stated: “When taken together, Richmond Transit’s vaguely defined policies and even vaguer unwritten rules make it impossible for a reasonable person to identify what violates their advertising policy and what does not.”
The court concluded that “Richmond Transit’s policy is not “capable of reasoned application” and is therefore unconstitutionally unreasonable.” Its verdict? “We, therefore, affirm the district court’s partial grant of summary judgment to White Coat, reverse its partial grant of summary judgment to Richmond Transit, and remand with instructions that the district court enter summary judgment to White Coat consistent with this opinion.”
Richmond Transit Ban on Political Ads on Buses Unconstitutional https://t.co/tu6FXXB3nZ
— Michael Toner (@michaeletoner) May 23, 2022
Officials with Richmond’s local bus system will continue evaluating how to restart its advertising program after a federal appeals court last week affirmed that its decades-old ban against political ads is unconstitutional. https://t.co/ntCSfR5JWe
— Times-Dispatch (@RTDNEWS) May 24, 2022
— Volokh Conspiracy (@VolokhC) May 20, 2022
You love to see it!
We’re proud of this major victory for taxpayers, animals, and for free speech.