Roundup: Federal appeals panel upholds Nebraska city’s picketing ordinance

Friday, October 20, 2000

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has
upheld a Lincoln ordinance that prohibits picketing within 50 feet of a home.
In an opinion released yesterday, the court based in St. Louis ruled that the
law promotes residential privacy and tranquility while doing its best to
preserve free-speech rights. City officials drafted the 1997 ordinance to
address concerns over anti-abortion picketers who targeted the home of Dr.
Winston Crabb, who performs abortions. U.S. District Judge Waren Urbom
upheld the city
ordinance in March 1999, rejecting a lawsuit filed by people opposed to
abortion. The lawsuit argued the ordinance was too broad and violated the
constitutional right to free speech. Associated Press

Indiana: News groups protest tightened access to

News organizations are complaining about restrictions on access to
prisoners at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute in the wake of a “60 Minutes”
interview with condemned Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. The
restrictions, which include prison officials insisting on reviewing stories
before publication, infringe upon the First Amendment rights of both
journalists and prisoners, said Steve Key, counsel for the Hoosier State Press
Association, in an interview with the Terre Haute
. According to Warden Harley Lappin, the “60
Minutes” interview in March, which included footage of prison workers escorting
McVeigh, resulted in security concerns that subsequently led to the tightened
policy on interviews. The new policy did not come to light until August, when
the Tribune-Star requested an
in-person interview with McVeigh that Lappin rejected citing security concerns.
Lappin did grant the paper a telephone interview under conditions that McVeigh
rejected. Key, who spoke to prison officials on Oct.16, said the two sides have
agreed to work toward a compromise. Associated Press

Kentucky: State appeals court hears arguments in T-shirt

The sensibilities of a small town should be considered in upholding
the harassment conviction of a woman fined for wearing a Marilyn Manson T-shirt
to a Benton Tater Days festival, Assistant Attorney General Michael Wilson told
a Kentucky Court of Appeals panel Oct. 17. If
Venus “Star”
Morgan had worn the shirt to a festival in a larger city, like Louisville,
she might not have been fined the $250 plus court costs, Williams argued.
Morgan was convicted in Marshall District Court of harassment in May 1998 for
wearing the shirt that depicted the lyrics of Manson's song “Cake and Sodomy.”
The lyrics contain profanity. Arguing that the city violated Morgan's
free-speech rights, her attorney, David Harshaw, said: “There are time, place
and manner restrictions on speech. But a public forum is still a public forum
whether it's in Benton, Kentucky, in Louisville, Kentucky, or on that little
patch of moon where our flag is sitting.” Two judges openly questioned whether
Morgan's actions constituted harassment, comparing them to a University of
Kentucky fan wearing a shirt saying “Go Cats” in a room full of University of
Louisville fans. Associated Press

New York: Judge allows TV camera at murder trial

Erie County Judge Shelia DiTullio has granted a television station's
request to have a camera in the courtroom during a second-degree murder trial
that began in Buffalo Oct. 16. Over the objection of defense attorneys, the
judge is allowing WIVB-TV to videotape the trial of Alex Nance, who is charged
with killing Buffalo landlord Gary Trzaska two years ago. Cameras have been
essentially barred from state courtrooms since rules allowing them expired in
1997. But in past months several judges, including the judge in the
Amadou Diallo
murder trial in Albany, have opened their courtrooms to cameras despite the
ban. DiTullio's decision was endorsed by Erie County District Attorney Frank
Clark. New York State Chief Judge Judith Kaye and State Attorney General Eliot
Spitzer have both said that returning cameras to the courts could help rebuild
public confidence in the legal system. Associated Press

Florida: Cursing is protected speech, says state appeals

A Florida appeals court says cursing is protected free speech even if
directed at a police officer. The 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami ruled
Oct. 18 that Miami-Dade police officers overstepped their bounds and violated
the Constitution when they arrested Wilbert L. Lee on charges of disorderly
conduct for using offensive language. On the night of Aug. 18, 1999, Lee
reportedly yelled, “Why are these crackers f—— with us?” when officers
asked him and others in a group of about 20 youths hanging out on a local
street corner about suspected drug activity. Lee was the only one in the group
to get arrested and charged. The ruling overturned Lee's conviction in juvenile
court last December, when he was given six months probation. Donald Jones, a
law professor at the University of Miami, said that neither the government nor
the police have the right to punish someone for using speech that is protected
by the Constitution. Associated Press

Wisconsin: Legislators propose measure to regulate issue

Advocates for campaign-finance reform say there's a gaping hole in
state laws allowing a flood of phony issue ads. Those who run the ads say
they're just exercising their free-speech rights. State Rep. Stephen Freese,
R-Dodgeville, and state Sen. Judy Robson, D-Beloit, want the Legislature to
require independent groups to disclose who paid for ads featuring the name or
likeness of a candidate for state office that appear within 60 days of an
election. In July, a tie vote by the state Elections Board defeated a proposal
identical to that backed by Freese and Robson. The advertisements the
legislators are seeking to regulate typically name candidates and show their
likenesses, but don't explicitly say “vote for” or “vote against.” Instead,
they may conclude with a message such as: “Call Sen. Smith and tell him to stop
raising our taxes.” But groups who run the ads say the proposal is
unconstitutional and similar laws have been struck down by courts in other
states. Associated Press

Iowa: Muslim girl seeks school ban on terrorist novel

A 12-year-old Islamic student is asking the Cedar Rapids School
District to remove a book she finds offensive from school shelves. Karima
Wagdy, a Franklin Middle School seventh-grader, says
The Terrorist by Caroline B. Cooney
is offensive to Muslims and could create a hostile atmosphere for other Muslim
or Arab students. Cooney's book is centered around a teenager who uncovers a
terrorist plot involving a Muslim classmate after her brother is killed by a
bomb. Karima said she worries that other students may read the book and get the
wrong impression of Islamic students, with whom they often have little contact.
She argues that the book not only portrays Muslims as terrorists, but depicts
Muslim women as slaves to men. Tom Micek, associate superintendent of teaching
and learning division, says he is aware of the concerns the book has raised in
the Muslim community, but, he adds, censorship is also at issue. The PTA
Reconsideration Committee, which includes parents, high school students and
teachers, will listen to Karima's objection and make a recommendation on how
the district should proceed to Superintendent Lew Finch, who has the final say.
The committee can recommend pulling the book from district shelves or placing
restrictions on who can read it. Associated Press

New Jersey: School district sued over gun safety flier

John Montenigro and Joan Furlong believe in educating their children
about gun safety. But when their children brought home a “Ceasefire New Jersey”
flier promoting a rally to support a bill that paves the way for the sale of
smart guns in the state, they thought that was the wrong kind of education.
Montenigro and Furlong then asked the Montclair Board of Education to
distribute another flier to the students announcing a rally against the bill to
its students. The district agreed to post the flier on a bulletin board, but
would not distribute it, they said. Now Montenigro and Furlong, along with two
other Montclair residents, are plaintiffs in a federal civil rights lawsuit
filed Oct. 13 against the school district by the Association of New Jersey
Rifle and Pistol Clubs. The lawsuit accuses the Board of Education of violating
the right to equal protection under the law by failing as a public institution
to give an equal forum to both sides of a debate. Furlong said this is not the
first time the district has failed to consider opposing views on gun safety.
Previously, the district sent home fliers about a gun safety forum in the wake
of the arrests of two Montclair High School students on charges of illegal gun
trading. Furlong said the district then denied her request to speak at that
forum or to include panelists representing her view. Associated Press

Kentucky: County violated open-records act, state attorney general

The attorney general has ruled that Jefferson County officials who
allowed a man to watch a video of a courthouse altercation yet refused to give
him a copy have violated the Kentucky Open Records Act. Darryl Stewart, whose
son was involved in an August incident in Louisville, had been permitted to
watch the tape on Sept. 5. He also filed a civil-rights complaint. Claiming
that the “premature release” of the video would be detrimental to the
department, Corrections Chief Michael D. Horton turned down Stewart's request
for a copy of the tape on Oct. 11, citing the FBI's decision to investigate
Stewart's complaint. Assistant Attorney General Amye L. Bensenhaver, writing
the opinion that was made public Oct. 16, said that there was no record of the
FBI having asked Horton's Department to withhold the video. Associated

Oklahoma: Prosecutor reopens investigation of Web site

A LeFlore County prosecutor has reopened an investigation of an
Internet site in which a former Poteau couple reportedly contributed sexually
explicit photos of themselves but used the first names of another local couple
without permission. Vaughn and Traci Barnes have been trying to get law
enforcement officials to consider criminal charges against the Web site where
the names “Vaughn and Traci” appear above the pictures of Eric and Lynna
Gallant, court records show. But the Gallants' attorney says his clients are
protected by the First Amendment right to free expression and that first names
are not protected by law. The Barneses filed a petition last week seeking a
grand jury probe of allegations against the site. District Judge George McBee
suppressed the first petition, saying it lacked too many specifics, court
records show. An amended filing was still being considered. The couple plans to
refile the grand jury petition if nothing comes from the criminal
investigation. Associated Press

Louisiana: Council votes for more control over Lafayette cable

The Lafayette City-Parish Council has voted to remove funding
guarantees for the corporation that provides Lafayette residents with a free,
uncensored voice on local cable television. Critics said the move sets the
stage for government control over cable-access television in Lafayette. The
council approved a cable franchise agreement that removes the guarantees of
funding for Acadiana Open Channel, provides for council control of any budget
for cable-access channels and allows City-Parish President Walter Comeaux to
appoint another agency to oversee access television. AOC has provided free,
uncensored public-access television to Lafayette residents for 17 years,
featuring groups as diverse as the Ku Klux Klan and teenage film critics. The
cable contract had guaranteed half of a 3% franchise tax to AOC's budget. But
the franchise approved Oct. 17 puts the entire 3% into the city-parish fund.
Several councilmen made it clear that it was not their intention to keep AOC as
the only access provider, although they did vote to remove a provision that
would allow the city-parish government to run the access. Associated Press

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