In April, we blogged about Eubanks v. Woods, in which the Sixth Circuit reversed a district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Ohio police officers sued for First Amendment retaliation and unlawful arrest after the officers arrested the plaintiff for speech against the police.  Also in April, the same court heard Novak v. City of Parma, in which a plaintiff appealed a district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Ohio police officers for First Amendment retaliation and unlawful arrest after the plaintiff was arrested for speech against the police.  This time, the Sixth Circuit affirmed.

The opinion begins “Anthony Novak thought it would be funny to create a Facebook page that looked like the Parma Police Department’s.” But beyond being “funny,” Novak asserted that the masquerading social media page was an exercise of his fundamental American right to mock government officials.

Continue Reading Cop Critic Unsuccessful on Constitutional Claims in the 6th Circuit

A few years ago, Joshua Herridge was waiting outside of a ZZ Top concert in Montgomery County, Texas, but unlike most people gathering near the event hall, he was not there to see the band.  He was spreading his religious message by preaching, holding signs, and leafletting near a right-of-way outside of the large pavilion.  Herridge was eventually approached by officers and asked to relocate his activities to a corner across the street.

Herridge brought suit against Montgomery County and the County’s Fire Marshal in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, claiming that the County’s attempt to relocate him from his street pulpit violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.  The district court found for the County, holding that Montgomery had a significant interest in removing people engaging in activities which entice people to stop and listen during crowded events, since these holdups can cause bottlenecks in foot traffic which redirect pedestrians into active roadways and increase their likelihood of being struck by cars.  Because the County limited its policy to a single block, provided an alternative space for preaching across the street, and only enforced the policy during large events, the district court found that the County’s policy was narrowly tailored.  Herridge appealed to the Fifth Circuit.

Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Remands Ban on Leafletting in Large Crowds

Last month, the Sixth Circuit reversed a district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of six Ohio police officers sued for unlawful arrest and retaliation against the free expression of protected speech.

In 2016, Michael Wood entered a county fair sporting an uncensored t-shirt that read “F**k the Police.” Within a few hours, six police officers and fairgrounds’ director Dean Blair had descended upon Wood asking to see the offending shirt. Although Wood had since covered up or changed out of the t-shirt, the officers heeded Blair’s demand that Wood be removed from the fair.  Wood agreed to go, but not quietly; as he was escorted off of the fairgrounds, Wood leveled profane insults at Blair and the officers and cited violations of his First Amendment right to free speech.  The officers then arrested Wood for disorderly conduct.

Continue Reading Cop Critic Prevails on Constitutional Claims in the 6th Circuit