Filing: Crawford County library officials acted in ‘constitutionally compliant’ manner

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 389 views 

Attorneys representing the Crawford County Library System argue that the relocation of LGBTQ books was not a First Amendment violation and instead “strikes a balance” that is “constitutionally compliant” and meets the standards of the community.

Attorneys James Rankin III, Forrest Stobaugh, and Samuel McLelland, with Little Rock-based PPGMR Law, filed a summary judgment request in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas on behalf of the library system and the Crawford County Quorum Court – defendants in a lawsuit against the county related to the library’s actions to relocate certain materials.

Attorneys Brian Meadors and Terrance Cain on Feb. 18 filed a summary judgment request on behalf of Crawford County citizen Rebecka Virden. The case is before Chief U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes III.

Meadors said in the filing that the Crawford County case is similar to a 2000 lawsuit (Sund v. City of Wichita Falls, Tex.) in Texas. That case resulted in a federal court overturning all actions to relocate and remove LGBTQ books from a public library.

The lawsuit was first filed May 30, 2023, against the library system and the Crawford County Quorum Court following the alleged book censorship actions by the library system.

The controversy began in November 2022 when Tammy Hamby and her husband Dr. Jeffrey Hamby, a Van Buren family physician, worked with the River Valley City Elders to lead a campaign against LBGQT+ books then available through the library system. Tammy Hamby would be appointed to the Crawford County Library Board by Crawford County Judge Chris Keith and named the board chair.

In their filing on behalf of the defendants, the defendant’s attorneys say the action by previous library officials was a valid compromise that best protected the rights of all library users.

“Although Plaintiffs are upset that their preferences are not being catered to, the Social Section provides a constitutionally compliant community compromise. The Social Section ensures that (1) material that may be considered inappropriate for children, based on the community’s standards, is available to children whose parents want their children to read such material while simultaneously (2) allowing parents who may have concerns about such material the ability to discharge their constitutionally protected right of parental oversight. Doc. 65 at ¶27. The community standards by which material is judged are based upon the input from librarians, the Library Board, and community members. County librarians have the statutory authority to run the library by the best methods known to them,” noted the filing. (Link here for a PDF of the 23-page summary judgment request.)

The filing notes that plaintiffs lack standing to sue the Crawford County Quorum Court because that body has “no statutory authority to implement such compliance within the library system.” The filing also asserts that plaintiffs do not have a First Amendment right to their preferences.

“Plaintiffs may attempt to argue that because children’s books were ‘removed’ from the children’s section, and placed in the Social Section, their right of access to such material is infringed due to this removal. However, such an argument conflates facts by ignoring that the children’s books were not removed from the library, but instead were moved from one area to another.”