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May 20, 2024

Jasper County Schools – Attorney invokes the Oscars for public comment policy

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On February 14, 2018

Jasper Co. (ECWd) –

The Jasper County School District has responded to our request for review of the public comment policy the districted adopted.

While I was specific as to part of the policy I wanted to be reviewed, the school attorney took us to Hollywood to build his case that the policy was just fine.

“The Oscars, for example, limit comments after awards to 45 seconds and candidates running for public office are often asked to respond in one minute or less at public debates.”

Yes, this attorney spent taxpayer dollars and created a 6-page document of misleading representations to persuade the Attorney General Public Access office that our request for review was basically unfounded.

Concerns I raised with the Attorney General PAC office:

  • The 2-minute restriction states that it applies “ordinarily”.  There is no definition as to what is “ordinary” public comment. 
  • “unusual circumstances” may allow a person to speak for more than 2 minutes. There is no definition as to what qualifies as an unusual circumstance.
  • The one-week advance “notice” “may” allow a person to speak for 5 minutes.  There is no guarantee the person will be given 5 minutes and people attending for the first time would not know this was an option to get more time to speak.  
  • The Board President can decide to shorten public comment to conserve time and give maximum number of individuals an opportunity to speak.

Of interest in the attorney’s letter is the fact he never addressed the very issues I raised.  Instead he made some very disturbing representations.  Disturbing to the point I would urge the School Board to refuse to pay any bill presented by this attorney as it is clear the majority of his work was more about billable hours than it was addressing the actual points raised.

As it relates to his invoking the Oscars, are we now going to apply TV time and political debates, where such rules have no bearing on people’s rights, to rules where people have rights? Just because the attorney says those examples are reasonable, many would say they are not.  How many speakers at the Oscars went over 45 seconds?  Did they do so because they felt 45 seconds was not enough time?  How many politicians speak longer than they are asked?  All of them?  Does that mean the time limit was not reasonable?

“There simply is no practical reason or legal authority in support of a two -minute restriction being unreasonable.”

 Correct – And there is no practical reason or legal authority in support of a two-minute restriction being reasonable!

Many of the claims made by this attorney insinuate that since the courts were silent on the time restraints it somehow justifies a two-minute time restriction.  The problem with the attorney’s representation is that not a single case he cited was a court case about time restrictions for public comment.  They were silent because that was not the issue before them.

Every time we start to expose bad actors on a public board, the first attempt is to restrict the public’s right to speak as they don’t like being exposed.  Having only attended two meetings, this board is not considering a policy revision to further restricts the peoples right to speak.

“With that said, the District is currently reviewing its policy and is considering establishing a two-minute time limit uniformly and eliminating the option to provide advance notice for five minutes of public comment.”

We are confident the Attorney General PAC will see through the games being played and issue an appropriate opinion that enhances the public’s rights to speak during a public meeting, not restrict it.

You can download the Schools response to the PAC at this link or view below.

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  • A. Lincoln
    Posted at 18:31h, 14 February

    “The Oscars” is nothing more than a bunch of silly, shameful and self-congratulatory reprobates masquerading as artists. For a licensed attorney to hold “The Oscars” up as a paradigm of law-givers is simply another example of what’s wrong in our civil polity. His recitation on “The Oscars” speaks more about him than the subject under Attorney General review.

  • A. Lincoln
    Posted at 22:15h, 14 February

    As a preliminary matter, Mr. Beard did not even attempt to make a public comment. Although Mr. Beard was present at the, meeting,, the District’ s rules regarding public comment were not enforced against him and, therefore, he has no standing. Regardless, because Mr. Kirk did make a public comment, we address both Requests for Review in this response.

    “…the District’ s rules regarding public comment were not enforced against him and, therefore, he has no standing…”

    I would be hard pressed to compose a shorter sentence revealing any greater amount of animus, as expressed here by this attorney, towards the law, citizens and taxpayers.

    Mr. Beard had “standing” by his presence at the meeting and would have “standing” in a lawsuit because of the Doctrine of Chilling Effects.

  • Robert O. Bogue
    Posted at 23:16h, 16 February

    It takes longer to place a fry order at the drive up window of a fast food restaurant…than the time allotted for public comment. Shame on every single board member that supports this policy and the attorney that agrees with it.
    The government of North Korea would love to have you help with their censorship program…so….. if this is how you feel about free speech and liberty…there is a place for you.

    For those that don’t get it, Attorneys don’t work for free. Notice they’re only hired to voice your position…..regardless of it’s legal merit….otherwise you wouldn’t hire them.
    They’ll happily defend you in court, knowing before hand you will lose. You paid them to do that. It’s how they make a living.
    It’s the Judge’s opinion that really matters. He’ paid to follow the law and to be certain that others do too. This attorney needs fired along with his law firm….for defending this policy.

    Speaking of the board members, two in particular:…don’t lie, you’re on video.. You’ve proven your self to be ignorant, mean spirited, hateful to those not in step with your personal agenda and functioning strictly on your emotions. You’re wrong and a horrible example to the children in your schools. If you can’t find enough moral fiber in yourselves to resign then perhaps you could dedicate your continued service to doing the right thing by educating yourself on Illinois Law…and then apologize.