Crawford County, entangled in two library censorship lawsuits, asked a federal judge on Monday to amend his July order that blocked a new state library law from taking effect and declining to dismiss the county from that lawsuit.
Crawford County’s Monday motion argued U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks wrongfully relied on evidence and facts in his July 29 order that weren’t properly introduced.
It also expressed concerns about the implications of the ruling on the separate case.
Relying on a photo exhibit, Brooks wrote that the Crawford County Library System had moved some books out of the children’s section in the library to a “restricted ‘adults-only’” section.
Attorneys for the county, though, said that while books were moved from the children’s section, they were placed in a “Social Section” that isn’t restricted to adults only.
Further, the photo evidence wasn’t ever admitted as an exhibit in the case on which the judge ruled, the county argued.
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It is important that Brooks amend his order because plaintiffs in the separate federal lawsuit — Virden v. Crawford County — are citing it in that case, the county’s attorneys said in the Monday motion.
“According to both Plaintiffs and this Court, Crawford County is litigating two different cases in two different courts on non-overlapping issues,” the attorneys wrote. “The issues regarding Social Sections and what Crawford County did prior to Act 372 are for the Virden case. Thus, factual findings in this case as to these Virden-based-issues could possibly prevent Crawford County from fully and fairly litigating such issues and raise potential preclusion concerns.
“That concern is not hypothetical either. The Virden plaintiffs have already moved for issue preclusion on some of the factual findings discussed above.”
In the case Brooks is presiding over, several local library systems, advocates and bookstores challenged Act 372 of 2023, which would have changed how Arkansas libraries handle controversial material and put the availability of certain books in the hands of elected officials.
The law had been scheduled to go into effect last week, but it is blocked indefinitely by Brooks’ preliminary injunction.
It followed the Virden lawsuit, in which three Crawford County parents allege “unlawful censorship of materials,” specifically children’s books with LGBTQ+ topics, in the county’s five library branches.
Both lawsuits are at the center of an intensifying public debate about how public libraries should handle controversial books and materials.
Some are concerned about children having access to books that discuss or display sexual content, likening it to pornography; others say those people are trying to censor LGBTQ+ books and authors.
In addition to the photo exhibit, Crawford County also claimed Monday that Brooks relied on a mistaken reading of the plaintiffs’ original complaint that constitutionally protected materials were separated in Crawford County libraries based on viewpoint alone.
In conclusion, the county asked that Brooks remove two paragraphs from his order granting a preliminary injunction and a sentence in his order denying the county’s motion that they be dismissed from the lawsuit, which also names the state as a defendant.
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