Press Release

Ballard Spahr Joins PEN America-led Coalition to Challenge Florida Book Ban

May 17, 2023

Acting on behalf of the free expression organization PEN America and publisher Penguin Random House, along with a coalition of authors and parents, Ballard Spahr and co-counsel Protect Democracy filed suit today against a Florida school district and board that have unconstitutionally removed and restricted targeted books.

The lawsuit alleges that the Escambia County School District and School Board have violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by removing or restricting books, some of which have been on the shelves for years or even decades, in order to exclude certain ideas from their school libraries. The lawsuit brings together authors whose books have been banned, parents and students in the district who cannot access the books, and publisher Penguin Random House in a first-of-its-kind challenge to unlawful censorship.

“[T]he books being singled out for possible removal are disproportionately books by non-white and/or LGBTQ authors, or which address topics related to race or LGBTQ identity,” the complaint states. “This is no accident.”

For more information on the lawsuit, see PEN America’s press release.

The Ballard Spahr team of Lynn Oberlander, Paul J. Safier, Shawn F. Summers, and Kamera Ella Boyd worked with Protect Democracy to file the lawsuit in federal court for the Northern District of Florida, Pensacola Division.

The Ballard Spahr team is providing its services at no cost to PEN America, a nonprofit organization, as well as the individual plaintiffs, under the firm’s Racial Justice and Equality Initiative, a pro bono plan of action launched in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd and dedicated to combating racial injustice and inequity through litigation. Through the firm’s broader pro bono program, lawyers and paralegals from across the firm’s 15 offices provide 50,000 hours annually to pro bono service, ensuring that clients have a voice and a legal advocate regardless of their ability to pay.

For media inquiries, please contact Bill Shralow at 215.864.8195.

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