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Case Name Turner v. U.S. Agency for Global Media FA-DC-0024
Docket / Court 1:20-cv-02885-BAH ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Case Summary
On October 8, 2020, former civil servants at the U.S. Agency for Global Media (the Agency) filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The former employees sued the Agency under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 706, and further alleged that the Agency ... read more >
On October 8, 2020, former civil servants at the U.S. Agency for Global Media (the Agency) filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The former employees sued the Agency under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 706, and further alleged that the Agency violated the First Amendment rights of the Agency's journalists. Finally, they alleged that the Agency violated 22 U.S.C. § 6204 and 22 C.F.R. 531.3, rules that are aimed at protecting the professional independence of the Agency's broadcasting networks.

Represented by private counsel, the former civil servants sought injunctive relief. They claimed that several new administrators installed by the Trump administration had breached statutory and regulatory firewalls in order to impermissibly chill the speech of the Agency's various overseas news networks. Specifically, they claimed that the Agency's newly-installed CEO and other political appointees had violated a statutorily-enshrined practice of separating business activities from the newsroom. They alleged that the CEO was coercing the Agency's broadcast networks into dropping news coverage that was seen as critical of former-President Trump. The former civil servants claimed that this coercion was accomplished by removing senior editors at the broadcasting networks, refusing to sponsor J-1 visas for foreign reporters, and meddling in newsroom meetings, among other actions.

The former civil servants filed an amended complaint on November 4, 2020. They added another claim under the Administrative Procedure Act, alleging that the Agency's rescission of 22 C.F.R. 531.3 on October 26, 2020 was arbitrary and capricious. They also added a claim that alleged the Agency had taken actions outside its statutorily delegated authority.

Judge Beryl A. Howell granted the former employee's request for a preliminary injunction on November 20, 2020. The injunction barred the Agency and the named defendants from interfering with personnel decisions, communicating with journalists, and conducting investigations into journalistic content except as provided by statute and internal procedures. 2020 WL 6822780.

The Agency appealed the injunction on December 17, 2020. The last action in the case was an order to terminate one of the plaintiffs due to their voluntary dismissal on January 21, 2021. This case is ongoing pending the appeal of the preliminary injunction.

Casey D'Alesandro - 02/11/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Defendant(s) U.S. Agency for Global Media
Plaintiff Description Former civil servants at the U.S. Agency for Global Media
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 10/08/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Grant Turner v. U.S. Agency for Global Media
Global Freedom of Expression
Date: 2021
By: Global Freedom of Expression
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
D.D.C.
01/21/2021
1:20-cv-02885-BAH
FA-DC-0024-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D.D.C.
10/08/2020
Complaint [ECF# 1]
FA-DC-0024-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.D.C.
10/22/2020
Brief of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 16 Media Organizations as Amici Curiae Supporting Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 22-1]
FA-DC-0024-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.D.C.
11/04/2020
Amended Complaint [ECF# 36]
FA-DC-0024-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.D.C.
11/20/2020
Order [ECF# 44]
FA-DC-0024-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.D.C.
11/20/2020
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 45] (502 F.Supp.3d 333)
FA-DC-0024-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Howell, Beryl Alaine (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0024-0003 | FA-DC-0024-0004 | FA-DC-0024-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ahmad, Zainab Naeem (New York) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0024-0001 | FA-DC-0024-0002 | FA-DC-0024-9000
Boutrous, Theodore J. Jr. (California) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0024-0001 | FA-DC-0024-0002 | FA-DC-0024-9000
Crain, Lee Ross (New York) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0024-0001 | FA-DC-0024-0002 | FA-DC-0024-9000
Denerstein, Mylan Lee (New York) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0024-0001 | FA-DC-0024-0002 | FA-DC-0024-9000
Grossbaum, Alexandra (New York) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0024-0001 | FA-DC-0024-0002 | FA-DC-0024-9000
Kole, Lauren (Colorado) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0024-0001 | FA-DC-0024-0002 | FA-DC-0024-9000
Lipshutz, Joshua S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0024-0001 | FA-DC-0024-0002 | FA-DC-0024-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Knapp, Michael Fraser (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0024-9000
Lynch, Christopher M (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0024-9000
Other Lawyers Brown, Bruce D (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0024-0005 | FA-DC-0024-9000
Craig, Matthew J (New York) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0024-9000
Hecker, Sean (New York) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0024-9000
Matz, Joshua Adam (New York) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0024-9000
Rottman, Gabriel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0024-0005 | FA-DC-0024-9000
Townsend, KatieLynn (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0024-0005 | FA-DC-0024-9000

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