COA: State Fair board did not chill china painter’s free speech

The Indiana Court of Appeals gave a cold reception to a painter’s argument that the Indiana State Fair Board’s power to ban her from art competitions at the annual state fair “chilled” her right to free speech.

Charlynn Hulse sued the State Fair board after raising concerns about other exhibitors in the china painting competition. She believed some other painters were violating the rules by entering copies rather than original works.

She took the matter to fair board member Douglas Huntsinger.

Then she subsequently saw minutes from a meeting of the Indiana World Organization of China Painters that referenced a complaint made about the china paintings at the state fair. The minutes noted the complaint was dismissed but that the “State Fair people” would consider banning the individual if the complaints became a nuance.

Hulse believed that passage was about her.

In August 2015, she filed a grievance but Huntsinger refused to accept it. Eventually she turned to the courts.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the Marion Superior Court’s grant of summary judgment to the State Fair board, ruling Hulse does not have standing to raise a First Amendment claim.

In particular, the appellate panel found Hulse failed to show she was harmed. She continued to file a grievance and a lawsuit after she discovered the IWOCP’s minutes, which demonstrates her exercise of free speech was not chilled.

Also, the State Fair board did not take any retaliatory actions against Hulse. Again, after she filed the grievance, she was allowed participate in the 2016 state fair.

The case is Charlynn G. Hulse v. Indiana State Fair Board, 49A05-1611-PL-2654.

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