Steve Brown, the executive director of the Rhode Island ACLU has issued a statement regarding Providence City Councillor Kevin Jackson’s lawsuit against the two people, Patricia Kammerer and Karina Holyoak Wood, who have organized a recall effort and petition against him.
Jackson’s lawsuit also names the City of Providence and the Providence Board of Canvassers.
“The ACLU is not familiar enough with the mechanics of the City’s recall mechanism to comment on the specifics of the allegations contained in Councilor Jackson’s complaint,” said Brown in the RI ACLU statement, “We do agree that certain due process standards are essential before subjecting elected officials to the burdens imposed in having to defend themselves against removal from an elected position they obtained through a democratic process.
“At the same time, we are deeply troubled that, in addition to suing City officials and the Board of Canvassers, which is responsible for overseeing the recall petition process, the lawsuit names as defendants the two private individuals who have been involved in mounting this recall campaign. Their involvement in the suit is completely unnecessary in order for a court to address any legitimate due process concerns raised by the petition process. Thus, the inclusion of these two individuals as defendants strikes us a classic SLAPP suit – an attempt to silence private citizens for seeking to exercise their First Amendment right to petition government.
“As Rhode Island’s SLAPP suit statute notes, ‘full participation by persons and organizations and robust discussion of issues of public concern before the legislative, judicial, and administrative bodies and in other public fora are essential to the democratic process.’ These two Providence residents should not be forced to defend themselves in a court of law for exercising petition rights granted them by the City Charter. The ACLU urges Councilor Jackson to amend his complaint and remove these two private citizens as defendants.”
In a statement the Kammerer and Holyoak Wood called Jackson’s lawsuit “an obvious delaying tactic.” Holyoak Wood was the campaign manager of Marcus Mitchell, who ran an unsuccessful write-in campaign against Jackson two years ago.