Supreme Court Restricts Speech Again


On June 11, a federal district judge declared a law forbidding any protests on the grounds of the Supreme Court, overturning 40 U.S.C. § 6135. Two days later, the Supreme Court itself reasserted that same ban in a new regulation based on 40 U.S.C. § 6102, which says:

(a) Authority of the Marshal. – In addition to the restrictions and requirements specified in subchapter IV, the Marshal of the Supreme Court may prescribe regulations, approved by the Chief Justice of the United States, that are necessary for – (1) the adequate protection of the Supreme Court Building and grounds and of individuals and property in the Building and grounds; and (2) the maintenance of suitable order and decorum within the Building and grounds.

The new regulation says:

This regulation is issued under the authority of 40 U.S.C. § 6102 to protect the Supreme Court building and grounds, and persons and property thereon, and to maintain suitable order and decorum within the Supreme Court building and grounds. Any person who fails to comply with this regulation may be subject to a fine and/or imprisonment pursuant to 40 U.S.C. § 6137. This regulation does not apply on the perimeter sidewalks on the Supreme Court grounds. The Supreme Court may also make exceptions to this regulation for activities related to its official functions.

No person shall engage in a demonstration within the Supreme Court building and grounds. The term “demonstration” includes demonstrations, picketing, speechmaking, marching, holding vigils or religious services and all other like forms of conduct that involve the communication or expression of views or grievances, engaged in by one or more persons, the conduct of which is reasonably likely to draw a crowd or onlookers. The term does not include casual use by visitors or tourists that is not reasonably likely to attract a crowd or onlookers.

All regulations of this type must be approved by Chief Justice John Roberts, so this does not bode well for free speech if the ruling this new regulation responds to is appealed. And it’s really rather appalling that the body that exists to enforce the constitution deems itself off limits to citizens exercising their freedom of speech and assembly.

Comments

  1. Ben P says

    Color me unconcerned.

    Its virtually universal that courts have jurisdiction to keep decorum in the Courtroom. I’ve probably seen a dozen people kicked out of courtrooms for making noise, and I’ve had my cell phone taken and held because it rang in court. (I got it back later, but some judges keep them permanantly – is that a takings or due process violation?)

    It specifically exempts picketing on the sidewalk outside the supreme court, but the interior of the supreme court building is not, and to my knowledge, never has been, a public forum.

  2. says

    Ed: Honestly, I don’t think this is censorship, a violation of free speech rights, or anything else.

    Sorry. But I think you’re way off base here. The court deals with volatile issues — it can’t be the focal point for every protest group. The only “winners” would be those who would be the loudest and most disruptive of the court’s business.

    Sorry. Find something else to be “concerned” about.

  3. Don Williams says

    1) Actually, the thing to be “concerned” about is that nine corrupt old people can get lucrative, lifetime sinecures making up whatever two-faced sophistry is needed to let 400 billionaires enslave 310 million Americans.

    Or , as the Court calls it, “democracy”.

    I piss on the Supreme Court — We need to abolish it. Federal Appeals as well.

    2) And anyone who wants to prate about the Court defending the Bill of Rights should look at Citizens United.

    Or ask Khalid El-Masri and Maher Arar what they think:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khaled_El-Masri

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maher_Arar

  4. dogfightwithdogma says

    I don’t agree with the dissenters here. Ed, I am 100% with you on this one. It is hypocrisy to claim, for purposes of preserving decorum, that no manner of demonstration or public criticism can be exhibited by citizens of the United States on the grounds outside the courtroom. I fully support the decorum argument to prohibit demonstrations inside the court building. This same argument, however, is weak and is completely lacking as a compelling argument for prohibiting dissent on the courthouse steps, so long as those demonstrating do not impede the business of the court nor access into the building.

  5. says

    I don’t have any problem with the court being allowed to eject people for being disruptive inside the courtroom, but this rule prohibitd any kind of demonstration on the grounds outside the building. No, that’s public space. The government passed a regulation prohibiting demonstrations on the steps of the Capital Buildung, people would be up in arms. This is a step too far for me.

  6. lancifer says

    I piss on the Supreme Court — We need to abolish it. Federal Appeals as well.- Don Williams

    And replace it with what? The Don Williams’ edicts.

    Citizens United protected free speech. The government doesn’t get to decide how much speech you get or how much you get to spend to express it.

    Want to address inequalities in wealth and power? Then pass laws that do so with out pissing on the first amendment.

  7. says

    Oh look, another branch of the government that wants to avoid encountering public displays of what people think about them. It’s like every group of people with a role in the screwed up process wants to insulate themselves from the rest of the process, or something.

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