Los Angeles – 03-20-2021
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled oral argument in Riley’s American Heritage Farm, et al. v. Claremont Unified School District (20-55999) sometime between July 6-9, 2021 at the court’s Pasadena location. Freedom X is representing Riley’s Farm and its principal owner, James Riley, on the appeal as well as in a separate lawsuit arising from the same “cancel culture” incidents.
Riley’s Farm is a popular destination located in the San Bernardino Mountains that replicates a colonial era village during the time of the American Revolution. Its employees dress in colonial era costume and teach visitors about America’s founding principles and life during that era. Southern California school districts have sent students on field trips to the Farm for decades and the field trips have become a valuable financial resource sustaining the business.
In late 2018, Riley and his Farm were the “cancel culture” targets of politically leftwing parents of students enrolled in Claremont school district. Riley – who is conservative – openly comments on politics and current events. The parents objected to comments Riley posted on social media and began a campaign to smear Riley urging school districts to end the annual field trips to the Farm. As a result of the parents’ efforts, Claremont and other school districts began canceling field trips to the Farm. Riley filed a lawsuit alleging unconstitutional retaliation against him and the Farm because school district officials were motivated by Riley’s conservative political views.
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A federal judge last year dismissed the lawsuit on the ground that the school district’s superintendent and board members, who are named as defendants in the lawsuit, are public officials protected by “qualified immunity.” The judge held that the school officials could not have known that they were violating Riley’s constitutional rights when they ended the field trips in reaction to his political commentary because the law under these circumstances was not “clearly established.”
Lead counsel in the Claremont lawsuit, Thomas Eastmond of the Enterprise Counsel Group based in Irvine, CA, will be arguing it on the appeal. Freedom X is co-counsel on the appeal and lead counsel in a separate lawsuit filed against eight additional school districts. That lawsuit has been stayed (delayed) pending the outcome of the Claremont appeal because the issues are the same.