The NYCLU's billboardThe NYCLU's billboard

The United States Court of Appeals will hear arguments tomorrow morning in a federal lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union after New York State lobbying authorities launched an investigation into a free-speech billboard sponsored by the NYCLU. Posted outside an Albany-area shopping mall where a customer was arrested for wearing an anti-war t-shirt, the billboard read, “Welcome to the mall. You have the right to remain silent. Value free speech.”

The Lobby Commission investigation of the NYCLU billboard, which came on the heels of a lobbying investigation of a City Hall rally sponsored by Russell Simmons and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, was based on a Lobbying Commission policy that requires advocacy groups to report to the government about a wide range of advocacy that is not lobbying. The NYCLU challenged that policy in its lawsuit.

After the NYCLU filed suit and then sought an emergency injunction, the state abandoned its billboard investigation. The policy behind that investigation remains in place, however, and the NYCLU is continues its challenge.

Without reaching the constitutionality of the policy, the District Court dismissed the case because the billboard investigation ended. The NYCLU has appealed that ruling and has asked the Court of Appeals to declare the policy unconstitutional.

NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn will be arguing the case for the NYCLU. The arguments are scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. in the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East on the 7th floor.