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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Court Tells Free-Speech Suit to You-Know-What

(CN) - A Wyoming man cannot sue everyone in town for violating his freedom of speech after a teenager "flipped off" the chief of police and got a ticket, the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Jonathan Wall, 19, got a ticket for reportedly making the obscene gesture to the Gillette police chief. The city prosecutor dismissed the case.

When Campbell County resident Bruce Williams read about the incident in the paper, however, he sued the city of Gillette and each of its 22,221 eligible voting citizens for violating his right to freedom of speech, demanding $22.2 million in damages.

The trial court dismissed the pro se case for lack of standing because Williams is not a citizen of the town and was not party to the incident.

The Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed the ruling on Wednesday in an opinion written by Justice William Hill.

"Williams was not a party to events he claims violated his freedom of speech," Hill wrote for the five-judge panel. "He was not in the car when the original incident took place and was never cited with any ticket.

"In fact, Williams is only aware of the events surrounding this lawsuit after reading a newspaper article about the incident," the ruling states. "The mere fact that he read a newspaper article does not vest him with the status of party."

The opinion also notes that Williams served a summons on the city but not the individual citizens, from whom he sought $1,000 each.

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