Constitutional Law 101 for Judges: Speech on Public Sidewalks is Protected

February 10, 2010

Apparently not even the public sidewalks are safe for free speech anymore:

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a lawsuit Monday against Los Angeles County officials on behalf of a Christian man who was prohibited from sharing his faith on a public sidewalk outside the San Fernando Courthouse. County officials told Anthony Miano that he could only conduct his free speech activities across the street on a sparsely used sidewalk.

I have been to several courthouses in Los Angeles County.  Outside the Van Nuys Courthouse, while waiting in a long line of attorneys to enter the courthouse doors upon their first opening in the morning, there was a lunatic with a sign and a bullhorn calling all of us “Nazis,” ranting and raving about all kinds of nonsensical matters.  I was informed by the attorney next to me that the man shows up often.  At first I was annoyed, but then it occurred to me, this is why we have the First Amendment (and the state constitutional equivalent).  Anyone can say whatever he wants.  It’s his right, and nobody even tried to stop him.  Impressive, when you consider what might happen to him in another country…

…or even another American city within the same county.  Apparently, judge Robert J. Schuit (the supervising judge of the San Fernando Courthouse) fancies his courthouse much more elegant and well-mannered, not even allowing so much as a quiet conversation about religion on the public sidewalk anywhere near his courthouse.  Those pesky state and federal constitutions can be ever-so inconvenient sometimes.

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