RUIDOSO, N.M. (KRQE) – A two-year freedom of speech fight between Ruidoso and one of its residents has come to an end.
A judge has ruled the village’s policy banning people from speaking negatively at council meetings is unconstitutional.
Liam Griffin, an attorney and Ruidoso resident, has been fighting to speak freely at the meetings since 2012 when officials refused to let him talk badly about one of their flood projects.
“When I wanted to speak about it not being fine I think they thought let’s not allow that,” said Griffin.
Under village rules, a speaker could praise or make a neutral comment to staff, personnel or the council, but they could not voice criticism.
Meeting policy states speakers “shall not make personal, rude or slanderous remarks regarding any members of the public or village officers and staff.”
Griffin sued the village saying that rule violated his First Amendment right.
“For you to say there can be no negative mention it’s too broad and it encompasses too many of those freedoms we have to protect in American democracy,” said Griffin.
Monday, U.S. District Judge James O. Browning agreed with Griffin saying Ruidoso’s policy barring speakers from being critical is “an unconstitutional burden on free speech.”
In an 89-page opinion report, Browning says limits can be placed on time and topic, but not the speaker’s opinion.
Griffin says the two-year fight was a difficult one, but someone had to do it.
“What I found out is people silently appreciate and admire my effort, but nobody wants to stand next to me while I’m pointing fingers at my home town,” he said.
KRQE News 13 reached out to the Village of Ruidoso Tuesday.
Village officials said it was too soon to release a statement because they were still looking over the judge’s opinion.
The city attorney did say they have removed the negative comment rule from the meetings policies.