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July 02, 2013

Supreme Court 'Occupy Everywhere' protester loses suit

A #Scotus protester arrested while wearing an "Occupy Everywhere" slogan on a jacket has lost a false-arrest lawsuit.

In a 14-page decision, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson dismissed the 2012 lawsuit brought by Fitzgerald Scott. Scott was arrested in January 2012 and charged with unlawful entry, after a Supreme Court police officer told him he could not be inside the court building wearing the slogan-bearing jacket. (There actually is some dispute over what, exactly, the jacket's slogan said, but it definitely had the word Occupy.)

The criminal charges were eventually dropped. Scott sued, and brought into his arguments the claim that his arrest violated the First Amendment.

Jackson concluded police had reasonable cause to arrest Scott, under a federal statute that makes it unlawful to parade, stand or move in processions or assemblages" inside the court, or to display "a flag, banner or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice a party, organization or movement."

Intriguingly, just a few weeks ago, a different D.C.-based judge found the statute unconstitutional, a finding that Jackson did not impinge on the facts in Scott's case.



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If challenged, I suspect that federal statute would be found unconstitutional.


It already has been found unconstitutional, as the article states. But the existance of the statute would seem to give the police reasonable cause to arrest Scott, even if he must later be found innocent on Constitutional grounds.


Decisions by one trial court are not binding on the other trial courts. It would have to go up to an appeals court.

These days, I wouldn't take a civil rights case to the Supreme Court in the expectation that the resulting ruling would expand an individual's right to protest the actions of corporations.

There's some logic to banning political statements from a courthouse, as well - just as for polling places. Imagine a court trying the Chevron / Equador pollution case, with the court's spectator section packed full of Chevron employees wearing "Equador is Corrupt" t-shirts, and eco-activists with opposing signs.


Courthouses are zones long recognized as not being free speech zones. The interest of adjudicating cases impartially is considered to be far more important, and the protesters can protest elsewhere.

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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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