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Teachers union can’t stop publication of information from undercover conservative operation, judge rules

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The American Federation of Teachers thinks its interests supersede the First Amendment. A federal court has ruled otherwise.

U.S. District Judge Linda Parker ruled Wednesday the publication of information gleaned from an undercover operation by Project Veritas, the conservative watchdog group, does not meet the Supreme Court’s threshold for prior restraint: “the evil that would result from the reportage is both great and certain and cannot be militated by less intrusive measures.”

She lifted a restraining order against the group that was imposed by a county judge three months ago, preventing it and its alleged infiltrator, Marisa Jorge, from publishing video or other evidence obtained during her internship at the teachers union’s Michigan chapter.

The union lost on most of its claims, including that any of 221 documents it produced counted as a “trade secret” violated by Jorge, or that the terminated intern “actually installed, placed or used, without [the union’s] consent, any device for ‘observing, recording, transmitting, photographing, or eavesdropping,'” in violation of state law.

Its lone likely win is its claim that Jorge breached a “duty of loyalty” for her alleged access to information “outside her authorization” and “unrelated to her assignment,” as well as “securing and copying information not generally available to the public” to give to Project Veritas, “an organization whose interests conflicted with” the union, Parker ruled.

But she refused the union’s demand to extend “fiduciary duty” to interns, a situation for which there is no case law in Parker’s jurisdiction. (Jorge allegedly portrayed herself as a University of Michigan student.)

Federal judge rules against American Federation of Teachers in lawsuit seeking prior restraint against Proj… by The College Fix on Scribd

Because “there is no evidence of any employee contract or any other agreement between” the union and Jorge, and she owes no fiduciary duty, the union loses its only grounds to stop publication of what she collected, the judge ruled.

Decades of court precedent make clear that the presumption against prior restraint outweighs the interests of organizations whose information was allegedly obtained improperly, Parker said:

As to the harm to Defendants, imposing an injunction would be a severe infringement on Defendants’ First Amendment right. The Supreme Court has held that “‘[t]he loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.’”

Following Parker’s ruling, AFT President Randi Weingarten and AFT Michigan President David Hecker denied they were taking aim at the First Amendment in the lawsuit:

The judge’s decision supports our position that we have a right of action the moment Project Veritas publishes anything illegally obtained by its operative Marisa Jorge. Today’s decision gives clear warning that Project Veritas and the people working on its behalf, in this case a former Liberty University student, will be held liable for their actions. … We will be zealous in seeking full relief and damages the moment O’Keefe goes public with any of the material stolen or illegally obtained by Project Veritas associates, and in challenging media narratives that promote false propaganda in the interest of secret political agendas.

Despite Parker’s unfavorable finding about Jorge’s duty of loyalty, Project Veritas itself portrayed the ruling as a win, focusing on her First Amendment analysis.

Its lawyer Ben Barr predicted “continued victories in courts nationwide as we demonstrate that exposing fraud, corruption, and abuse is at the core of our national commitment to free speech,” and founder James O’Keefe said the group will “fight tooth and nail, and we will win,” against any other groups that “make frivolous claims against us.”

The union’s lawsuit suggests that Jorge, using a pseudonym, was interested in exposing “sexting” between teachers and students, according to The Washington Post.

Read the ruling, AFT statement, Project Veritas statement and Post coverage.

MORE: Project Veritas shows Vassar official shredding ‘triggering’ Constitution

IMAGE: Sabphoto/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

Add to the Discussion

  • PittsburghTiger

    Teacher’s Union is part of The Swamp.

    Disgusting people who are helping to destroy America.

  • rogerthatokay

    All you need to know about the AFT:
    -http://www.opensecrets.org/org… All-Time Donors, 1989-2012, public teacher unions:
    The American Federation of Teachers [AFT pres. Weingarten was paid $557,875 in 2014] gave $34,698,466: 86% went to democrats, 0% to Republicans.

    And the NEA:
    -http://www.opensecrets.org/org… All-Time Donors, 1989-2012, public teacher unions:
    The National Education Association gave $43,613,263: 71% went to democrats, 5% to Republicans.

    -http://www.opensecrets.org/ove… 2014 Top Organization Campaign Contributions, All Federal Contributions: Number 3 was the National Education Association which gave 99.2% to democrats.

    And our colleges:

    -2/7/11 http://www.nytimes.com/2011… Democrat psychology professors outnumber Republicans 12 to 1. Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.

    -5/20/12 http://articles.latimes.com
    “Perhaps this is not surprising given that the tilt to the left among college faculty members has been growing nationwide for several decades. At UC Berkeley, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans even in the hard sciences had grown to 10 to 1 in 2004, many times what it was 30 years ago, according to a study by Daniel Klein and Andrew Western. In the humanities and social sciences the ratios were 17 to 1 and 21 to 1, respectively.”

    -11/28/12 foxnews.com http://www.foxnews.com/poli… 96% of Ivy League professors’ donations went to Obama,

    -5/19/13 http://articles.latimes.com… Commencement speakers: Conservatives need not apply. A look at the data suggests that at graduation ceremonies on U.S. college and university campuses, it’s liberals only.
    “It turns out there is quantitative proof academia, Hollywood, and the media actually are dominated [hugely] by liberals.”

    -5/30/14 http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/… ex-Mayor Bloomberg warned in his Harvard commencement speech: “Today, on many campuses, it is liberals trying to repress conservative ideas, even as conservative faculty members are at risk of becoming an endangered species,” he told the crowd, adding that “the forces of repression [at universities] appear to be stronger now than they have been since the 1950s.” He noted that, in 2012, “96 percent of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama…”

    -January 1017 http://www.bostonmagazine.c… How Liberal Professors Are Ruining College: In New England, they outnumber conservatives 28 to 1.

    And we wonder why our “education” system breeds whiny little Anti-Americans?

    -6/2/11 Gallup poll: 71% of democrats favor re-distributing wealth.

    -4/15/16 pewresearch.org 84% of democrats oppose building the southern border wall.

    -5/6/16 gallup.com Poll: Percent having a positive view of socialism: Democrat 58%; Republican 13%.

    -2/5/17 ap.org “The poll found Democrats were nearly three times as likely as Republicans to say that the U.S. should be a country made up of many cultures and values that change as new people arrive, with far more Republicans saying there should be an essential American culture that immigrants adopt.”

    -2/24/17 rasmussenreports.com Only 49% of Democrats favor keeping out of the country those who do not support the Constitution or who in engage in acts of bigotry or hatred for reasons of religion, race, gender or sexual orientation.

    -4/19/17 peoplesworld.com [the Communist paper] “…Millions of youth mobilized in support of the progressive ideas of Bernie Sanders during the Democratic Party primaries. Schepers [head of Communist Party USA] is convinced that if the Vermont Senator had been Trump’s opponent, he would have won.”

    -11/3/17 aol.com: 50% of U.S. Millennials say they would rather live in a socialist or communist country than a capitalist democracy; 22% of them have a favorable view of Karl Marx.

    -12/6/17 wsj.com Americans between 18 and 29 years years old favor socialism over capitalism.


    Joseph Stalin: “Education is a weapon whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.”

    Vladimir Ilyich Lenin: “Give me just one generation of youth, and I’ll transform the whole world.”