The Fight for Free Speech

6/16/20 UPDATE: The Ohio Supreme Court ruled today in a unanimous decision that the lower Court’s order was an unconstitutional restraint on free speech and struck down the prohibition on posting online. 

On July 1st, 2019, Sawan & Sawan filed a merit brief in the Ohio Supreme Court case of Bey v. Rasawehr 2019-0295. The brief argues that any Court Order that forbids the future exercise of protected free speech is unconstitutional. The pending case before the high court questions whether a judge can preemptively restrict speech, particularly before determining the comments are not protected.

In a Toledo Blade article written today, the parent company for the publication explained why it believes this matter is so important. “For centuries, Anglo-American law has held that governmental injunctions prohibiting speech are antithetical to freedom of expression in democratic societies,” Mr. Byers said when asked why The Blade filed a brief in support. “Whenever an Ohio court tries to bend or subvert that principle, The Blade believes it is obligated to speak up, in defense of its own rights and of the expressive rights of all others whose constitutional rights are imperiled.”

As lead Appellate counsel Dennis E. Sawan further explained:

“From the foundation of this country, it’s been understood that the government does not have the right to silence somebody before they speak for speech that is protected. [We're] seeking a limitation on a Court's censorship authority”
Dennis E. Sawan
Managing Partner, Sawan & Sawan

The Road to the Ohio Supreme Court

On May 15th, 2019, the Ohio Supreme Court granted review of Case Number 2019-0295 captioned Bey v. Rasawehr. Out of 57 discretionary appeals filed, this was one of only 3 accepted. This case is on appeal from Mercer County Court of Common Pleas Case numbers 10-18-02 and 10-18-03 – and the ensuing Third District Appeal in 2019-Ohio-57. The Ohio Supreme Court accepted the Appeal on Appellant’s Proposition of Law No. II – and will undertake to consider whether prior restraints on the exercise of free speech are unconstitutional and presumptively invalid, as applied to the facts in this matter. 

The law firm of Sawan & Sawan filed a Memorandum in Support of Jurisdiction with the Ohio Supreme Court on February 27th, 2019. 

Professor Eugene Volokh, a distinguished Professor at the UCLA School of Law filed an Amicus Brief in this matter in support of jurisdiction on behalf of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, tort law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, and a First Amendment amicus brief clinic at UCLA School of Law. Before teaching at UCLA, he clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court and for Judge Alex Kozinski on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He was joined by 9 other distinguished law professors. 

Additionally, Block Communications, Inc. filed an Amicus Brief in support of our client’s position. The company owns and operates The Toledo Blade and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and is the parent company of Buckeye Broadband. Block Communications, Inc. is represented by Toledo Attorney Fritz Byers, who has a wide breadth of experience dealing with matters of Constitutional Law. 

Click here to view the public docket from the Ohio Supreme Court. 

The law firm of Sawan & Sawan looks forward to arguing this matter before the Ohio Supreme Court on February 11th, 2020. 


Dennis P. Sawan


Licensed in Ohio and Georgia


Christopher A. Sawan


Licensed in Ohio and Michigan

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