Sunday, December 2, 2012

New court rules; clinic break-in

Quoted in this one in the Press Enterprise.

Picketing and proselytizing are prohibited at San Bernardino County courthouses under an order issued Nov. 19 by Presiding Judge Marsha Slough.

Does the new order trample the First Amendment?

The central courthouse has been picketed by people protesting judges’ decisions or county supervisors’ actions. Did that prompt the ban? No, picketers were not the target, Slough said.

The order came in response to complaints from people waiting in lines to get into the Rancho Cucamonga courthouse who were being aggressively proselytized by people for religious views.

Waits to get through security checkpoints can be as long as half an hour or more, and people who have business with the court were a captive audience, she said.

In order not to target any group or viewpoint, the order simply bars threatening, confronting, interfering with or harassing anyone entering any county courthouse.

I spoke to two First Amendment experts. Both said the order appears within constitutional bounds.

“Whenever the government makes restrictions on who’s speaking … we’re very nervous about censorship,” said Jessica Levinson, professor at Loyola Law School.

But if the order is neutral regarding the content of the speech, the court can place restrictions on “time, place or manner,” she said.

Terry Francke, general counsel for open-government advocates Californians Aware, said courts are allowed to control expressive activities on property they own. But that doesn’t extend to the public sidewalk.

Slough’s order applies just to the walkways where people gather to enter the courthouses. Volunteers who monitor the lines and help people with directions will watch for violators; deputies are in charge of enforcement.

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