We have represented publishers (newspaper, magazine, newsletter and book) in First Amendment cases, including the defense of access to prisoners. We also defend clients who are subpoenaed for information or testimony, and help journalists gain timely access to public records, closed meetings, and closed court proceedings. Other First Amendment matters we have handled involve issues of religious freedom, freedom of association, and freedom of speech.
- U.S. WeChat Users Alliance v. Trump: RBGG represented a non-profit organization and several individuals and businesses in the first successful challenge to President Trump’s Executive Order 13,943 (August 6, 2020) and its implementing regulations, which would have effectively banned the WeChat social media application and cut off at least 19 million daily users in the United States from their personal, professional, and religious communities. RBGG (with co-counsel) filed the Complaint on August 21, 2020, just over two weeks after Executive Order 13,943 was issued, alleging that the intended ban unlawfully regulated constitutionally protected speech, expression, and association, and that such a ban would have particularly dire effects on millions of Chinese-speaking American users who depend on WeChat to communicate with their contacts both at home and in China. One week later, RBGG filed a motion for preliminary injunction that served as a model for subsequent challenges to both the WeChat ban and a similar ban on the TikTok social media app. The motion raised pathbreaking legal theories under the First Amendment and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), offered expert testimony that the WeChat ban would do little to advance the government’s asserted national security interests, and included extensive evidence of WeChat’s critical role in connecting Chinese-speaking communities at home and abroad. On September 19, 2020—the day before the WeChat ban was scheduled to take effect and one day after the Secretary of Commerce publicly vowed to shut down WeChat in the United States—the court granted our motion on First Amendment grounds, thereby ensuring the uninterrupted functioning of WeChat in the United States. See U.S. WeChat Users Alliance v. Trump, 488 F. Supp. 3d 912 (N.D. Cal. 2020). RBGG then marshalled additional testimony from experts in cyber-security and internet communications technology to fight off the government’s multiple attempts to obtain an emergency stay of the preliminary injunction in both the district court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. President Biden rescinded EO 13,943 shortly after taking office, putting an end to the Trump Administration’s attempt to shut down entirely a public forum used by millions of Americans.
- Sierra Club v. United States Securities and Exchange Commission: After President Donald Trump took office, the SEC increasingly allowed companies to exclude shareholder proposals aimed at curbing global warming and adopting environmental standards. On behalf of the Sierra Club, RBGG filed a FOIA lawsuit against the SEC to obtain previously-withheld communications between the agency and external parties related to climate-focused shareholder proposals as well as records related to the SEC’s processes for rejecting or approving a company’s decision to exclude shareholder proposals related to climate change. Through litigation, Sierra Club obtained responsive documents that the SEC had initially refused to produce.
- Sierra Club v. United States Department of the Interior et al.: RBGG sued the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to obtain records related to the protection of threatened and endangered species at risk of harm by coal mining operations. Prior to litigation, the federal agencies ignored their FOIA obligations and failed to identify or produce responsive records to Sierra Club. After filing the lawsuit, the federal agencies promptly produced responsive records.
- Prison Legal News v. Ryan, 39 F.4th 1121 (9th Cir. 2022): RBGG, as lead counsel for publisher Prison Legal News (PLN), secured a partial affirmance of a district court order finding the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) violated PLN’s First Amendment rights by censoring its eponymous news publication Prison Legal News. The Ninth Circuit held that ADC’s policy banning sexually suggestive materials was unconstitutional both on its face and as applied to Prison Legal News, and awarded PLN over $200,000 in fees. RBGG also won a ruling from the district court on summary judgment that ADC violated PLN’s Fourteenth Amendment due process rights, entitling PLN to damages, which ADC did not appeal.
- Prison Legal News v. Schwarzenegger: RBGG established its publisher client’s First Amendment right to send books and magazines into state institutions, and was awarded attorneys’ fees for the same work. See Prison Legal News v. Schwarzenegger, 608 F.3d 446 (9th Cir. 2010).
- Prison Legal News v. Sacramento County: The firm secured its publisher client’s First Amendment rights to reach readers in county jails.
- Prison Legal News v. Ventura County: We established our publisher client’s First Amendment rights to reach its readers by successfully challenging an unlawful jail policy limiting incoming mail to postcards.
- Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP v. Hawaii Department of Public Safety: RBGG successfully enforced Hawaii public records law to access documents regarding the state’s contractual agreement with a mainland private prison corporation to house Hawaii prisoners.
- Lawyer v. Lawyer: RBGG secured a dismissal of a defamation lawsuit against our lawyer client on an anti-SLAPP motion, successfully arguing our client’s speech was protected by the First Amendment. The trial court awarded RBGG and its cocounsel almost $100,000 in fees, which the California Court of Appeal affirmed in full.
- Lucas Valley Home Owners Association v. County of Marin: We succeeding in securing a reversal under constitutional and zoning law of an order invalidating a conditional use permit issued to our synagogue client, the real-party-in-interest Chabad of Marin. See Lucas Valley Home Owners Ass’n v. County of Marin, 233 Cal. App. 3d 130 (1991).
- Prison Legal News v. City and County of San Francisco; County of Sacramento; and County of Los Angeles: In three separate actions, RBGG represented a news organization to enforce the public right of access to information regarding government payouts on account of personal injury and civil rights claims.
- Communist Party of Indiana v. Whitcomb: The Court unanimously declared for the first time that government-mandated loyalty oath statutes contravene the First and Fourteenth Amendments, reversing the lower court ruling and ensuring our client’s right to participate in electoral politics. See Communist Party of Ind. v. Whitcomb, 414 U.S. 441 (1974). This was one of several loyalty oath and disclaimer cases that RBGG founding partner Sanford Rosen took to the Supreme Court; others were resolved favorably in the lower courts.
- Ibrahim v. Department of Homeland Security: RBGG submitted an amicus brief on behalf of a Muslim organization in support of a challenge to aspects of the federal “No-Fly List” under the First and Fifth Amendments. See Ibrahim v. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., 669 F.3d 983 (9th Cir. 2012).
- Beard v. Banks: We submitted a brief on behalf of publishers, reporters, librarians, retailers, and other disseminators of books, newspapers, and magazines, in support of a First Amendment challenge to a Pennsylvania prison policy that denied certain prisoners access to any newspapers, magazines, and photographs. See Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521 (2006).
- Rose v. Department of Air Force: On behalf of our law student client, we enforced the public’s right to receive information from federal agencies under the Freedom of Information Act. See Rose v. Dep’t of Air Force, 495 F.2d 261 (2d Cir. 1974), aff’d, 425 U.S. 352 (1976).