Home / News / Tom Cotton’s Cease-and-Desist Letter to an Activist Raises Serious First Amendment Questions

Tom Cotton’s Cease-and-Desist Letter to an Activist Raises Serious First Amendment Questions

Photo Credit: By United States Congress [Public domain], around Wikimedia Commons

In October, Stacey Lane — a human resources veteran of 19 years, got in the mail a cease-and-desist minute from Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark. The letter, in an pouch addressed to Lane, pronounced that all communication “must stop and terminate immediately with all offices of U.S. Senator Tom Cotton.”

“Healthcare was really big issue before we got the letter. we did what we could to call senators and congressmen and lift the concerns we had,” Lane told Salon.


The letter — now getting courtesy in the inhabitant media — is lifting questions about whether or not it’s probable to bar a person from petitioning their government’s representatives.


Lane says she’d call the bureau once or twice a week, customarily during times that preceded a major opinion or legislative action. There would be several weeks where she wouldn’t call at all.

“My calls were eloquent typically surrounding a major opinion or legislative transformation or call to transformation around the several romantic groups. we was not a serial, daily caller-just-to-call form [of] person,” Lane said.

According to Tom Cotton’s office, Lane — a member of Ozark Indivisible, an romantic organisation partial of the Resistance transformation against the Trump administration, used coarse denunciation on mixed occasions. The final incident, which stirred officials in Cotton’s bureau to discharge a stop and desist, was when Lane allegedly called a 19-year-old novice a c**t. According to Cotton’s office, the minute was released formed on the superintendence of the U.S. Capitol Police, who has not returned Salon’s ask for evident comment.

When the stop and terminate minute started to make sound on Twitter, John Noonan, ‎Senior Counselor for Military and Defense Affairs in Cotton’s office, tweeted about the eventuality to set the record true to anyone who criticized the pierce — like the ACLU.


1. This went out to a singular constituent, not a group.
2. That basic called a 19 year old novice a c***.
3. Constituent had mixed warnings.
4. We have a very opposite bargain of “harassment.” https://t.co/gJdFYviELw

— John Noonan (@noonanjo) Jan 18, 2018

Lane told Salon she didn’t remember job the novice a c**t though, it’s a word she’s maybe used “two times in my life.”

“Have we used colorful language? Yes, but it’s zero some-more than we see the boss using,” Lane told Salon.

Cotton’s bureau released a matter about the matter saying, “If an employee of Senator Cotton receives steady communications that are badgering and vulgar, or any communication that contains a threat, the policy is to forewarn the U.S. Capitol Police’s Threat Assessment Section and, in suitability with their guidance, send a stop and terminate minute to the particular making the badgering or melancholy communication.”

Indeed, coarse denunciation can be rattling, but arising a stop and terminate veers into the area of before restraint, explained David Snyder, executive executive of First Amendment Coalition.

“This minute is inappropriate, and we would contend it’s equivocal unconstitutional,” Snyder told Salon. “This kind of speech, as descent as it may be and as vulgar as it is, is just partial of the game; it’s partial of what happens in a democracy.”

Snyder combined that protests, by nature, are not polite.

Of course, the first Amendment doesn’t strengthen melancholy denunciation where a person’s particular reserve is at risk.

“If this staffer had a legitimate regard for personal reserve then this competence be someone the bureau should report to the Capitol Police and let them understanding with it from there,” Snyder said.

When Salon asked Cotton’s bureau if this stop and terminate minute was a defilement of the First Amendment, they pronounced they didn’t have a comment.

Wayne B Giampietro, General Counsel to the First Amendment Lawyers Association, suggested that a tactic like this could be a form of intimidation.

“Anyone who wants to try to dominate someone can send a stop and terminate letter. Whether that minute is worth the paper its created on is another story,” he told Salon. “Unless the profanities are a approach and approaching hazard to the lawmaker, they are almost positively stable by the First Amendment.”

Lane says when she perceived the minute she felt like it was a threat.

It was a tactic to conceal my voice,” she told Salon.

Indivisible, the romantic organisation Lane is partial of, has had a scattered attribute with Cotton and his office, which the Arkansas Times has been following. Salon spoke to another Indivisible romantic who had been arrested in his office following a protest. A video has also flush on Facebook of protesters being kicked out of Cotton’s office.

Cotton, 40, is the youngest portion U.S. senator. Before his election to the Senate he served one term in the House. Cotton has been rumored to be named the next CIA director.

Nicole Karlis is a news author at Salon whose essay has seemed in Marie Claire, the New York Times, The Bold Italic, and other publications. She covers health, science, tech and gender politics. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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