FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Jody L. Miller
Ellen Zoe Golden
JLM PR, Inc.
FEDERAL COURT ISSUES ORDER SUSPENDING NY LOBBYING COMMISSION INVESTIGATION
OF RUSSELL SIMMONS AND THE HIP-HOP SUMMIT ACTION NETWORK
NEW YORK, N.Y. – OCTOBER 2, 2003 – Russell Simmons and Dr. Benjamin Chavis,
who together with the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, filed a lawsuit in July
of this year charging the New York Temporary State Commission on Lobbying with
violating their First Amendment rights, reconvened in federal court this morning
to ask Judge Loretta A. Preska to enforce the suspension of the Lobbying Commission’s
investigation into Russell Simmons and Dr. Chavis.
Today, Judge Loretta A. Preska issued an order suspending the Lobbying Commission’s
investigation into Plaintiffs’ First Amendment activities, which were aimed
at raising public awareness about the unfairness of the Rockefeller Drug Laws.
The Judge found that the Lobbying Commission had unfairly tried to back out
of a court-approved agreement to suspend the investigation. The suspension that
Judge Preska ordered today will last until the Court can issue a full decision
in this case.
The court stated that the Lobbying Commission could not withdraw from the court
order to suspend its investigation simply because it deemed it a waste of time,
as was stated by the Commission’s Executive Director David Grandeau, in
“We are quite pleased by Judge Preska’s ruling,” commented Stephen
Younger of Patterson, Belknap, Webb and Tyler, attorneys for Russell Simmons
and Dr. Chavis. “We consider this to be an important victory, not only
for my clients, but for all of those who exercise their fundamental right to
speak out against laws with which they disagree.”
The court hearing was attended by lawyers from the NYCLU, who argued in favor
of the plaintiff’s motion. “The Lobbying Commission’s investigation
of the June 4 rally against the Rockefeller Drug Laws goes well beyond the commission’s
legitimate authority and violates core values of free speech and association,”
said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU.
Mr. Simmons and Dr. Chavis organized a public rally at City Hall on June 4,
2003. The rally was attended by tens of thousands of young people who listened
to speakers discuss the unfairness of the Rockefeller Drug Laws In response,
the Lobbying Commission launched a broad investigation, demanding sworn testimony
from my clients and contacting third parties who had helped organize the rally.
Through Mr. Grandeau, the Lobbying Commission has engaged in a public smear
campaign against Mr. Simmons and Dr. Chavis, leaking inaccurate information
to the media and repeatedly suggesting that they did something wrong. They did
Mr. Simmons and Dr. Chavis are not lobbyists. No one paid them to get involved
in this public debate. Rather, they are speaking out because they feel it is
important to do so as citizens of a free society. This
nation was founded upon the principle that all citizens must be free to voice
their disagreements with the actions of our government. The Court’s decision
today reaffirms this important right. Mr. Younger further stated, “We
look forward to resolving this matter in Court as quickly as possible.”
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