Bill to address public meeting disruptions signed into law

Aug 24, 2022

A bill designed to address disruptions at public local government meetings was recently signed into law. Authored by Sen. Dave Cortese, SB 1100 outlines a new process in which the presiding member of a legislative body conducting a meeting, or their designee, may remove an individual for disrupting the meeting.

SB 1100 prescribes the following process for removal: 

(1)  Warn the individual that their behavior is disrupting the meeting and their failure to cease their behavior may result in removal.

(2)  Remove the individual if they do not "promptly" cease their disruptive behavior. 

While SB 1100 puts in statute what the presiding officer or their designee of a Brown Act legislative body can do to reduce disruptions in meetings, existing statutory and case law already specifies other avenues for addressing public meeting disruptions.

Under existing law, and as interpreted by the courts, a city council may adopt rules governing the conduct of their public meetings and allowing for the removal of a person who makes slanderous, profane, or threatening remarks or engages in any other disorderly conduct that disrupts the meeting (Government Code section 36813; See also White v. City of Norwalk). If there is no disruption, there cannot be a removal (Acosta v. City of Costa Mesa).

Courts have also upheld the ability of local governments to remove a member of the public from a meeting if their conduct and speech disrupt the orderly process of the meeting (Penal Code section 403; Government Code section 54957.9; See also Kindt v. Santa Monica Rent Control Board). 

Additionally, Government Code section 54954.3(b)(1) allows a legislative body to adopt reasonable regulations to ensure that members of the public have the opportunity to address the legislative body on any item of interest to the public. However, the legislative body may not prohibit public criticism of its policies, procedures, programs, or services.

City officials and their attorneys may want to consider — should a situation call for it — whether they want to remove disruptive individuals pursuant to a rule adopted under existing statutory and case law or follow the new SB 1100 process.

For additional Brown Act guidance please refer to the League of California Cities’ Open & Public V: A Guide to the Ralph M. Brown Act, which is a useful tool and practical guide for city officials and the public.