American Spectator: Gorsuch Understands How Bureaucratic Bullies Harm First Amendment Rights
By Luke Wachob
Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, appears to take seriously the threat to First Amendment freedoms posed by government intimidation. His ruling in a 2007 case should encourage defenders of donor privacy.
In Van Deelen v. Johnson, plaintiff Michael Van Deelen alleged that a sheriff deputy intimidated him during a meeting with a county appraiser. Van Deelen alleged that the sheriff deputy made intimidating gestures, bumped him, and warned, “They told me to do whatever necessary to put a scare into you. If you show up for another tax appeal hearing, I might have to shoot you.”
Van Deelen argued that these intimidation tactics infringed on his First Amendment right to petition government. Judge Gorsuch’s discussion of the case demonstrates a deep understanding that First Amendment rights are harmed when citizens can be bullied out of exercising them. “When public officials feel free to wield the powers of their office as weapons against those who question their decisions, they do damage not merely to the citizen in their sights but also to the First Amendment liberties and the promise of equal treatment essential to the continuity of our democratic enterprise,” Gorsuch explained.