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Rep. Barbara Lee LA Medicaid Expansion Federal judge sides with MoveOn.org in Bobby Jindal billboard lawsuit
Monday, 07 April 2014 00:00

Federal judge sides with MoveOn.org in Bobby Jindal billboard lawsuit

Written by  Lauren McGaughy | NOLA.com
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A federal judge ruled Monday, April 7, that MoveOn.org did not have to take down this billboard criticizing Gov Bobby Jindal's Medicaid policies. A federal judge ruled Monday, April 7, that MoveOn.org did not have to take down this billboard criticizing Gov Bobby Jindal's Medicaid policies. (MoveOn.org Court Documents)

MoveOn.org won't be forced to take down a Baton Rouge-area billboard critical of Bobby Jindal's decision to forgo Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, a federal judge ruled Monday (April 7).

But Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who filed the suit last month, said he hadn't yet decided to move ahead with the legal challenge. But he noted he was still opposed to Moveon.org's choice to use his office's tourism campaign to criticize the policies of another elected official.

In his original court filings, Dardenne said the national liberal organization improperly mimicked his office's trade and tourism branding in its satirical billboard posted just outside of the state capital. But U.S. District Court Judge Shelly Dick disagreed Monday, siding with MoveOn.org in stating the group's free speech rights trumped the state's case.

"The State has failed to demonstrate a compelling reason to curtail MoveOn.org's political speech in favor of protecting of the State's service mark," Dick said in her ruling. She added "irreparable injury" would not be caused to Louisiana's tourism campaign if the ad remained in place.

MoveOn.org Civic Action Executive Director Anna Galland, heralded the ruling: "This decision is a victory for common sense, freedom of speech, and the 242,000 Louisianians being denied health care because of Governor Jindal and Louisiana Republicans' outrageous refusal to let them access Medicaid."

She added, "While we are pleased with today's outcome, it's a shame that the state filed this baseless lawsuit in the first place -- which nearly every lawyer with basic knowledge of the First Amendment said they'd lose."

The billboard, erected near the I-10 coming into Baton Rouge from Port Allen in early March, criticizes Jindal for forgoing the Medicaid expansion option available to states under the Affordable Care Act. Mimicking the look of Louisiana's multi-million dollar tourism campaign, the billboard states, "LOU!SIANA Pick your passion! But hope you don't love your health. Gov. Jindal's denying Medicaid to 242,000 people."

Dardenne has not yet decided whether he will move forward with the legal challenge against MoveOn.org. His office cannot appeal Monday's ruling, but can file a request for permanent injunction.

A candidate for governor in 2015, Dardenne said he will discuss the case with counsel Dale Baringer before making a final decision on whether or not to move forward. Baringer has handled the case free-of-charge for the office of the lieutenant governor so far, and Dardenne said he did not expect that to change if he continued with the suit.

MoveOn.org's billboard and related TV ads criticizing Jindal's Medicaid policies are part of a nationwide campaign against governors who chose not to accept the expansion available under Obamacare. Similar efforts have been launched in Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas, Nebraska and Florida.

But, Louisiana is the only one of these states to pursue legal action against the organization. On Monday, Dardenne said Louisiana's case is unique because his office is responsible for tourism, which isn't the case in many other states targeted by MoveOn.org.

Therefore, he said, the MoveOn.org ad used his office's tourism campaign and service mark to criticize the policies advanced by another elected official.

"The governor does not control me or control the Office of Tourism," said Dardenne. "To use our brand to pardoy another figure we feel is a difference, a distinction.

But don't take this to mean the lieutenant governor disagrees with Jindal. If governor, Dardenne said he also wouldn't opt into the Medicaid expansion under current circumstances.

But, he is in favor of policymakers more vigorously exploring ways to both cover the uninsured and protect the state from rising Medicaid costs in the future.

Link to original article from NOLA.com

Read 1809 times Last modified on Tuesday, 29 April 2014 01:46

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