On Friday, June 2, the Association of American Publishers (AAP), Penguin Random House, Candlewick Press, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishers, Scholastic Inc., and Simon & Schuster filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, patrons of the Llano County Library System in Llano County, Texas, in the case of Little v. Llano County, a suit that challenges the actions taken by members of the Llano County Commissioners Court, members of the Llano County Library Board, and the Llano County Library System Director, to remove 17 books from the shelves of the public library system.
The suit was filed on April 25, 2022, by seven Llano County residents, claiming that, among other things, public officials had violated their constitutional rights under the First Amendment by banning books based on content and viewpoint. In March 2023, a federal court granted plaintiffs a preliminary injunction, which ordered the return of the books to the library system and catalog. The defendants are now appealing that decision.
“On behalf of our many members, we are pleased to file this amicus brief in support of the critically important suit brought by public library patrons,” commented Matthew Stratton, Deputy General Counsel, Association of American Publishers. “As our brief states, the instinct to ban books is not unique to any particular political ideology, but regardless of when or where it happens, the removal of books from the shelves of a public library is fundamentally inconsistent with the tenets of American democracy. Accordingly, time and again courts have upheld core First Amendment freedoms by rejecting attempts to impose viewpoint and content-based discrimination in libraries.”
Excerpts from the amicus brief include:
- “[T]he County’s removals targeted some of the most celebrated and consequential works of recent years, as well as popular and classic children’s books.” The titles include Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents, which was on the Longlist for the National Book Awards and Time Magazine’s No. 1 Nonfiction Book of the Year; They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group, which was written by a winner of the Newbery Honor and the Washington Post/ Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award and a finalist for the American Library Association’s Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults award; Spinning, a coming-of-age story of the author, a competitive figure skater that was the winner of the 2018 Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work; and In the Night Kitchen, the iconic children’s classic and winner of a Caldecott Honor, among other outstanding titles.
- “The Constitution does not care about the political affiliation of the book-banners or the causes that motivate their censorship. When faced with the removal of books from library shelves, courts have consistently applied heightened scrutiny to bans motivated by government disapproval of the views and themes in the books. In hindsight, these decisions have been validated: books that once seemed dangerous and destabilizing to the prevailing political, moral, or cultural consensus are now considered part of the canon and celebrated.”
- “It does not matter whether [a] ban serves progressive or conservative causes. The First Amendment is neither ‘woke’ nor ‘anti-woke.’ It protects the right of all Americans to access literary works across the political, ideological, and experiential spectrum, without government violation.”
- “It is a hallmark of modern First Amendment jurisprudence that, in the marketplace of ideas, voices of dissent and criticism are essential to a deliberative process that arrives at truth. Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616, 630 (1919) (Holmes, J., dissenting) (“[T]he best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market[.]”). Unfettered public debate is, in turn, essential to effective self-government.”
The full brief can be found here.