IndyMedia Interview Prompts HUD Lawyers to Threaten Attorney with Gag Order
by Matt Olson
Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007 at 1:25 PM
Yesterday, attorney Bill Quigley, a distinguished professor of law, human rights and public housing rights defender, received a threatening "cease and desist" letter from the law firm representing the Housing Authority of New Orleans(HANO) and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The firm Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann claims Quigley's comments to the press on the housing situation in New Orleans--specifically mentioned is an interview posted on New Orleans IndyMedia--constitute "improper conduct." "We came across many reported statements by you to the press that prejudice HANO's position in this litigation, including but not limited to an audio recording of an interview you gave that is posted on the New Orleans Indy Media website," read the letter signed by Rachel Wisdom.
Quigley currently represents public housing residents in an ongoing lawsuit against HANO and HUD in which residents claim that the two agencies must honor valid pre-Katrina leases and re-open those public housing units across the city.
The letter amounts to a preemptive gag order request to limit Quigley's free speech, which HANO and HUD lawyers regard as "prejudicial" and "extradicial" to the case in progress. If the firm's demands are not met by Monday January 29, then they "will be forced to seek redress from the Louisiana Disciplinary Board and/or seek intervention by the Court."
Quigley, who first made the letter available to the public on the website justiceforneworleans.org, has not said whether he will give into all demands, some or ignore them entirely.
The letter also implicated other lawyers involved in the lawsuit and websites that have published statements or video footage of Quigley. HANO and HUD's lawyers' demand that Quigley "take immediate action" to remove his statements "from all websites or other public forums," including a documentary on the Advancement Project website.
Many people involved in the public housing movement view these demands as acts of censorship impinging on rights to free speech and to a free press.
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