PEN America First Amendment Lawsuit

Updates on 3/24/2020 from Protect Democracy and PEN America — A federal court ruled against President Trump in a lawsuit that claims he has used government power to retaliate against media coverage he dislikes, in violation of the First Amendment. Specifically, the court denied a government motion to dismiss the case and allowed it to go forward on allegations that President Trump has retaliated against the White House Press Corps and certain holders of security clearances who work as media commentators based on their First Amendment-protected speech.

Protect Democracy and co-counsel from the Yale Law School Media Freedom of Information & Access Clinic and Davis Wright Tremaine filed the landmark lawsuit on behalf of PEN America to stop President Trump’s campaign of censorship against the press. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected the president’s bid to dismiss the case, allowing it to proceed to the discovery phase. 

In the Press on these updates: The Hill, Bloomberg News, Courthouse News Service, The Hollywood Reporter, Publishers Weekly

MFIA is partnering with Protect Democracy to represent plaintiff PEN America — an organization of writers dedicated to protecting open expression — in a lawsuit against President Donald J. Trump. 

The suit alleges that the President violates the First Amendment when he uses or credibly threatens to use his official government powers to retaliate against journalists and media organizations for coverage that is critical of the President and his Administration. The PEN lawsuit contends that the President's actions undermine the Constitution's guarantee of a free press in three ways: 1) harming speakers directlythrough retaliatory action; 2) chilling the exercise of free speech by other speakers not directly targeted by the President; and 3) by interfering with the right to listen and receive information and ideas. 

The lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief for the plaintiff enjoining the President from directing or ordering any action against any person or entity with the intent to retaliate against or constrain speech critical of him and his Administration. The complaint was filed in the Southern District of New York on October 16, 2018. For more info on MFIA clinic's involvment see this news story.

Key Documents


Amended Complaint

Gov. Motion to Dismiss

PEN Opposition to Motion to Dismiss

Gov. Reply

Judge Schofield's Opinion on Gov Motion to Dismiss

Gov. Answer to Amended Complaint