On August 30th, the Liberty Justice Center (LJC) filed a notice of appeal in ABC Michigan v. Abruzzo, a case challenging government “jawboning”—an illegal practice in which government officials threaten citizens with prosecution to silence them.
The Liberty Justice Center represents the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan (ABC Michigan), who filed a lawsuit in March asking the Court to stop Jennifer Abruzzo—General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the nation’s chief labor prosecutor—from threatening employers with prosecution and chilling their free speech. In a public memorandum, Abruzzo vowed that she would urge the NLRB to overturn 75 years of labor law precedent under the National Labor Relations Act to make it illegal for employers to discuss their views and opinions on unions with their employees at mandatory meetings. For Abruzzo to do so, a union or other aggrieved party must file an unfair labor practice against an employer with the NLRB.
In the lawsuit, ABC Michigan argues that Abruzzo is illegally using public memos to coerce business owners and chill their free speech. In addition, ABC Michigan argues that Abruzzo issued the public memo outside her prosecutorial authority to encourage unions to file charges against employers so she could then change the law to her liking.
Recently, however, Judge Robert J. Jonker of the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan dismissed the case, ruling that the National Labor Relations Board should consider the issue if and when Abruzzo pursues charges. Judge Jonker also ruled that ABC Michigan could not bring the lawsuit because the memorandum lacks legal force and because the group and its members do not face imminent legal action.
In an appeal filed on August 30th, the Liberty Justice Center argues that the District Court was wrong to dismiss ABC Michigan’s complaint because Abruzzo’s memo coerces employers into refraining from speaking, and because Abruzzo had no authority to issue her memo.
“Ms. Abruzzo’s memo threatens employers with prosecution for exercising their First Amendment rights, silencing them even without taking legal action. This censorship scheme is illegal jawboning, and it violates the First Amendment,” said Senior Counsel, Buck Dougherty.
The Liberty Justice Center’s filings in this case can be found here.
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The Liberty Justice Center is a nonprofit, public-interest litigation center that fights to protect school choice and fundamental constitutional rights. The Liberty Justice Center is best known for its 2018 U.S. Supreme Court victory in Janus v. AFSCME. Learn more about the Liberty Justice Center at LibertyJusticeCenter.org.