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Judge allows CCSD lawsuit to move forward against teacher’s union

Updated September 20, 2023 - 7:23 pm

A Las Vegas judge said she intends to allow the Clark County School District’s lawsuit against the teacher’s union to continue by denying an anti-SLAPP motion.

“I’m a reasonable man, I don’t expect to win this motion today,” Clark County Education Association attorney Bradley Schrager said, adding that he wanted to caution the judge against issuing a ruling on the union’s free speech rights.

The district filed a lawsuit against the union in July, seeking to prevent the teacher’s union from striking. Last week, District Judge Crystal Eller granted a preliminary injunction against the teacher’s union to prevent rolling sickouts that have led to campus closures, ruling that a “strike has occurred.” The Nevada Supreme Court has since denied an emergency request from the union to halt the injunction.

Before that injunction was granted, the union, which represents about 18,000 licensed employees, filed what is known as an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that it was meritless and attacked the union for “exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Schrager argued that the lawsuit was designed to halt union member’s protected speech, including discussing a lawsuit. During Tuesday’s hearing in front of District Judge Jessica Peterson, Schrager said that although a teacher’s strike in Nevada is illegal, discussing a strike is not.

“I see this as a First Amendment case in which the union has a right to say almost anything it wants as long as it doesn’t indicate to you that a strike is about to happen,” Schrager said.

Peterson said she plans to deny the motion because the lawsuit has met the threshold “minimal merit” to go forward. She did not officially make a ruling Tuesday, stating that she may issue a longer order ruling on the underlying reasons why the anti-SLAAP motion should be dismissed.

“It’s not so much that the court is attempting to enjoin the actual speech of — ‘We are going to strike’ — because that’s a free speech issue,” Peterson said. “It’s whether or not that speech can be utilized to support the injunctive relief that is being requested. And I think that it can.”

In an emailed statement, the district said the judge made the “correct ruling” Tuesday.

“It is the public policy of the State of Nevada that strikes against the State or any local government employer, like the Clark County School District, are illegal,” the statement said. “To try and characterize the District’s complaint for an injunction as anything other than an attempt to stop the commencement or continuation of a strike is disingenuous.”

Attorney Ethan Thomas, who represents the school district, also referenced a Las Vegas Review-Journal article published Friday in which the newspaper reported that union members presented the possibility of using “selective sickouts” during a meeting in July.

Thomas alleged that some of the union’s arguments have not been made in good faith since that meeting was held and that the district’s lawsuit should be allowed to move forward.

“That’s clearly evidence of success on the merits as well,” he said.

Schrager said he intends to appeal Peterson’s decision to the Supreme Court.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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