The Look in Brief

Emergency hearing over House sign ban set for Monday

By: - August 25, 2023 9:39 am

A Davidson County Chancery Court judge has set an expedited hearing for Monday in a legal dispute over a decision by the Tennessee House of Representatives to ban protest signs during a specially called session on public safety.

In the order issued Friday, Chancellor Anne Martin said a temporary restraining order will remain in place, preventing House members and officials from enforcing the ban on signs.

Martin issued the temporary restraining order Wednesday in response to an emergency filing by the ACLU of Tennessee — representing three women ejected from a House committee hearing. The suit challenged the House rule on free speech grounds.

On Thursday, House Speaker Cameron Sexton and the other defendants in the suit — represented by the office of the Tennessee Attorney General — responded by challenging Martin’s authority to block the rule as an intrusion by one branch of government into another. Lawyers also questioned Martin’s decision to swiftly issue an emergency order absent a hearing or opportunity for their legal response. They sought a dissolution of the temporary order and a hearing within 24 hours.

Judge issues injunction against Tennessee House, barring enforcement of sign ban

“The Court stands by its decision that the issuance of the (temporary restraining order) was proper and consistent with its obligations under Tennessee law,” Martin’s three-page order said. “The Court noted the swiftness with which it acted is expected when such extraordinary relief is requested.”

Martin noted the initial petition was accompanied by “declarations of facts that compelled immediate relief before a hearing with the other side could be convened. It was supported by five sworn statements and a thumb drive including two videos of the incident that precipitated the filing and evidenced an enforcement of the policy that was subject of the action.”

The hearing is set for 11 a.m. Monday in Davidson County Chancery Court.

chancery court order

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Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee.