Ridgeland-based attorney Andy Taggart has joined Mississippi Justice Institute’s lawsuit against the city of Jackson’s ban on free speech around an abortion clinic.
Last October, MJI and members of Sidewalk Advocates for Life – Jackson, Mississippi launched a constitutional challenge to Jackson’s prohibition on pro-life counseling and other free speech outside the state’s only abortion facility. Taggart will now serve as pro bono co-counsel for the plaintiffs.
“Andy will be a tremendous asset in MJI’s challenge to Jackson’s unconstitutional ban on free speech,” said MJI Director, Aaron Rice. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in the law and courtroom practice before our state’s highest courts.”
The new ordinance bans individuals who are near health facilities from approaching within eight feet of any person without consent, for the purpose of engaging in various forms of speech such as counseling, education, or distributing leaflets; bans people from congregating or demonstrating within 15 feet of the abortion facility, and bans any amplified sound. Violations of the ordinance could result in fines of up to $1,000 and 90 days in jail.
“I am honored to join Aaron Rice and the team of the Mississippi Justice Institute in representing individual Mississippians who have the courage literally to fight city hall,” Taggart said.
“Jackson’s ordinance bars private citizens from peacefully communicating to fellow citizens about a profound moral issue on a public sidewalk,” said Rice. “This violates well-established protections for free speech under the Mississippi Constitution, and we are confident that our clients will prevail in court.”
Taggart is a founding partner in Taggart, Rimes & Graham. He was previously a partner in the state’s largest law firm and has held an “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubbell for over twenty years. Taggart has served on numerous boards and committees, has several times been a gubernatorial appointee, and was Co-Chairman of the Mississippi Department of Corrections Task Force on Contract Review and Procurement in 2014. Taggart is highly published, including two popular books, which he co-authored: Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, and Mississippi Fried Politics: Tall Tales from the Back Rooms.
“Our clients’ rights to free speech and free press are being violated, in the face of a constitutional protection that describes those rights as ‘sacred,’” Taggart added. “I look forward to being a part of the fight to vindicate their rights.”
The case is pending in Hinds County Circuit Court.