COLUMBIA, S.C. (Legal Newsline) - South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson on Thursday filed a motion to dismiss a union lawsuit against Gov. Nikki Haley.
Wilson said the plaintiffs in the case -- the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers, the South Carolina American Federation of Labor, and the Congress of Industrial Organizations -- "have not alleged any facts to show that the Governor or the Director of (the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation) acted under color of State law or engaged in violative conduct through speech alone that lead to the deprivation of a Constitutional right."
Haley has said she would fight to keep unions out of the state's Boeing Inc. plant. Also, in December, the governor nominated Catherine Templeton to head up the DLLR. Haley pointed to Templeton's union-related experience.
"She is ready for the challenge," Haley said at the time, according to various news reports. "We're going to fight the unions and I needed a partner to help me do it."
The unions pointed to the governor's remarks in the lawsuit they filed Jan. 20, alleging both Haley and Templeton "intimidated" workers so they wouldn't join or support unions.
The attorney general called the unions' lawsuit "meritless."
"The unions are attempting to use this Court as a road to censorship of the sitting Governor and Director of the South Carolina Board of Labor, Licensing and Regulation based on their statements that they oppose the entrance of unions in South Carolina within the bounds of the law," he wrote.
Wilson argues that both Haley and Templeton have a right to free speech, even in their official capacities.
"A government official does not shed their constitutional right to freedom of speech or expression upon the taking of public office," he wrote.
Also, he argues, there has been no quashing of the unions' right to free speech, equal protection or due process based on either officials' statements.
Because Haley and Templeton's statements "were personal opinions made by public officials, their statements are covered by the First Amendment and do not infringe on the rights of any other person," Wilson concluded.
In his motion to dismiss, he also asks that the court award all costs, including attorneys fees, to the defendants.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.