Court Rules for Anti-Abortion Activists in L.A. Case
SAN FRANCISCO(AP) – Police were wrong to briefly detain and then run off abortion protesters driving a truck bearing large photographs of aborted fetuses around a middle school right before the morning bell, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the abortion foes had a free speech right to drive the truck on public streets adjacent to the Los Angeles County school and that “the government cannot silence messages simply because they cause discomfort, fear, or even anger.”
On March 24, 2003, two representatives of the anti-abortion group Center for Bio-ethical Reform arrived at the Dodson Middle School in Rancho Palos Verdes 30-minutes before class began, at around 7:30 a.m. Center employee Paul Kulas drove the truck and center volunteer Thomas Padberg drove a “security vehicle.”
By 8:05 a.m., two sheriff’s deputies pulled over the two vehicles and called their supervisor to help determine whether a crime had occurred. By 9:20 a.m., the anti-abortion activists were ordered to leave the area or face arrest for illegally disrupting a school.
The appeals court said the deputies were wrong to detain the men for as long as they did – 75 minutes – because no crime occurred. The protesters were allowed to do what they did.
“That conduct was disruptive only because of the audience’s reaction to the content of the speech,” Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel Wednesday. “All of these reactions were triggered by the upsetting message on the truck not by noise, or physical obstruction.”
So no “heckler’s veto” on pro-life messages.
I’m surprised this ruling came out of the Ninth Circuit.