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Monday, March 17, 2014

City's Leaflet and Demonstration Policy Upheld

In celebration of St. Patrick's Day, I thought a case that deals with the legality of a parade/demonstration policy seems quite appropriate.

The City of Baltimore, Maryland had a policy that identified certain permitted areas where demonstrators and protesters could gather in the City's Mariner Arena area.  Ross was arrested after repeated warnings that he was violating the policy by handing out leaflets within a prohibited area.  He sued the City, claiming that the policy was facially unconstitutional and violated his First Amendment rights.  Both the district court and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the City. Ross v. Farley (4th Cir. March 5, 2014).  

The issue for the appellate court was whether the City's policy was an improper "time, place, and manner restriction" on protected speech.  The court first determined that the Mariner Area was a traditional public forum.  Next, the court determined that the policy promotes a substantial government interest - in this case, to keep sidewalks clear for pedestrian movement.  The court also found that the policy was content-neutral, and was not targeted at a particular group or speech. Finally, the policy left open ample alternative channels for communication, as it identified areas where protesters could gather. 

In short, the City did not violate Ross' First Amendment rights by arresting him for violating the City's policy on demonstrations in Mariner Arena.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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