A 60-year-old statute barring all protest on the marble plaza outside the US Supreme Court is 'irreconcilable with the First Amendment,' a federal judge in Washington ruled.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/File
In a case that brings free speech protections literally to the very steps of the US Supreme Court, a federal judge in Washington has struck down as unconstitutional a statute that allowed police to arrest anyone attempting to deliver a message of protest on the wide marble plaza outside the high court’s elegant front entrance.
US District Judge Beryl Howell declared the 60-year-old law in violation of free speech protections and thus void as applied to the court’s plaza.
“The absolute prohibition on expressive activity in the statute is unreasonable, substantially overbroad, and irreconcilable with the First Amendment,” Judge Howell wrote in a 68-page opinion released Tuesday.
The decision puts in doubt a long tradition at the high court of police forcing demonstrators to confine their picketing, chanting, and sign waving to the relatively narrow public sidewalk in front of the court.
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