The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas filed suit on behalf of a state contractor whose contract was terminated because he emailed his state legislator to advocate against a bill to ban transgender youth from receiving medically necessary health care. 

Casey Copeland, a contract attorney for the state court system, emailed his state representative, Rep. Charlene Fite, from his personal email account to express his opposition to House Bill 1570, which would bar transgender youth from receiving gender affirming care. Less than two days later, Mr. Copeland was notified that his contract with the state would be terminated. The lawsuit asserts state officials violated Mr. Copeland’s constitutional rights to free speech and due process and asks the court to block the termination of his contract.

Mr. Copeland had previously corresponded as a constituent with his representative on other matters without generating any adverse reactions or controversy.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court by the ACLU of Arkansas and cooperating attorneys Bettina E. Brownstein and Johnathan D. Horton. Defendants in the case are Marty Sullivan in his capacity as the director of the Arkansas Administrative Office of the Courts, and Stasia Burk McDonald, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts’ Dependency-Neglect Attorney Ad Litem Program. 

The federal court reinstated Mr. Copeland’s contract on August 6, 2021, finding that his contract had been terminated in violation of his rights to free speech.

Date filed

June 2, 2021