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TV, radio stations ordered to pull official's campaign ad

The Associated Press
11.12.99

(Editor's note: State District Judge Ronald Bodenheimer on Nov. 12 dissolved the temporary order prohibiting Jim Brown from airing his campaign advertisement. The judge's decision canceled the Nov. 19 contempt hearing for Brown and the hearing on a permanent restraining order.)

BATON ROUGE, La. — A temporary order that prohibits Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown from airing a campaign ad was extended yesterday to television and radio stations as well.

State District Judge Ronald Bodenheimer signed the order yesterday and copies immediately were faxed to television and radio stations, said Robert Evans, an attorney for Allen Boudreaux. Boudreaux is Brown's opponent in the Nov. 20 election.

On Nov. 9, Bodenheimer signed the original temporary restraining order requiring Brown to stop airing the commercial.

"Jim Brown, for whatever reason, has been pressuring television stations to continue to show the commercial despite the restraining order," Evans said. "He has just ignored the judge's ruling and continues to do what he wants to do."

Brown spokesman Alan Pursnell said Brown had not received a summons by late yesterday and would continue to air the ads. The Advocate of Baton Rouge reports that Brown's latest commercial claims Boudreaux has ties to convicted felons and features a picture of Boudreaux that looks like a police mug shot.

Officials with a Baton Rouge TV station told the newspaper that federal law requires them to continue running the commercial until Brown tells them to stop.

"The judge would have to arrest me because I can't pull the ad," Pat Cheramie, general manager of WBRZ-TV, told The Advocate.

Pursnell says Boudreaux's efforts are an attempt to restrict Brown's First Amendment rights.

"Something like this happens very frequently in an election when somebody starts losing and they try to use the courts to muzzle free speech," Pursnell said.

Boudreaux also asked Bodenheimer to hold a hearing on whether Brown should be held in contempt of court because he has ignored Bodenheimer's ruling. A contempt hearing is set for Nov. 19 as well as a hearing on whether a permanent injunction should be granted.

"It doesn't surprise me that Jim Brown thinks he is above the law once again," Boudreaux said. "The last time he thought that, he was indicted. This time he'll have to face the judge on a contempt order for failing to obey the restraining order."

Boudreaux filed a libel lawsuit in state court on Nov. 20, saying the ad contained "patently false" information about him.

The campaign commercial does not say anything that has not been reported in newspapers around the state, Pursnell said.

"As far as any contempt hearing, we will demonstrate that we are acting within our rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression and demonstrate that everything is true," Pursnell said.

Brown, indicted in September on federal charges that he conspired to improperly help a failed insurance company, should have stopped airing the television ad as soon as he heard that the order had been granted, Boudreaux said.

Boudreaux said he faxed Brown a copy of the order and therefore he should not wait until the summons is issued.

Evans said Brown could ask that the hearing on whether a permanent injunction should be granted could be held earlier but had not yet done so.

First Amendment Center staff contributed to this report.


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