October 23, 2019

GJC Sues to Protect Rape Survivor’s First Amendment Rights

The Government Justice Center (GJC), a non-partisan legal center founded to protect taxpayers from government overreach and abuse, today filed a case against the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics for conducting an improper investigation and harassing a rape survivor.

Kat Sullivan, who had been prohibited from pursuing legal action against her rapist by a statute of limitations, publicly supported New York’s Child Victims Act last year. The Child Victims Act proposed to eliminate the statute of limitations for prosecuting child sex abuse crimes. To raise awareness of the proposed law and sexual abuse generally, well within her first amendment rights, Kat created a website, purchased billboards and even flew a plane above the capital with a banner to ensure her voice was heard.

In response, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics began investigating what they claim to be unregistered lobbying. In New York, lobbyists are considered to be every person or organization retained, employed or designated by a client to engage in direct contact, or have others engage in direct contact, with lawmakers to influence legislation. In no way did Ms. Sullivan meet this definition, yet the Commission continues to harass her into registering, paying a fee and filing regular reports.

“The Joint Commission is very clearly violating Ms. Sullivan’s first amendment right to speak and petition the government by continuing to harass her for speaking her mind on a topic she is very passionate about. Civic engagement should be encouraged, not silenced. This kind of government overreach is dangerous and stopping it is the very reason the Government Justice Center exists,” said Cameron Macdonald, executive director of the Government Justice Center.

The Government Justice Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit legal center that provides pro-bono representation and legal services to protect the rights of New Yorkers in the face of improper action by state or local governments. Taxpayers can request the GJC’s assistance here.

You can read lawsuit documents here.