Does Lighting Fireworks Constitute Free Speech?

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

180px-San_Diego_FireworksWe wish you a festive and joyful Independence Day and pose a question to you. Does the use of fireworks constitute protected free speech?

A tradition spanning multiple generations in the United States is that a large portion of our society celebrates and shows tribute to the United States through the lighting and observance of fireworks. Yet numerous municipalities and counties impose sweeping and total bans of fireworks. Some statutes regulate the type of firework allowable, such as those having a ferocity that safety requires certified technicians. Others ban benign devices such as snakes and small fountains.

But does a complete ban on fireworks regardless of size constitute an infringement on the first amendment rights of citizens?

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English Government Declares Unhealthy Lunches Can Be Seized and Destroyed By School Officials

Lord_John_NashWe previously discussed whether England was becoming a “Nanny State.” (here and here). As much as I love London (and Londoners), it appears to have plunged into realm of government regulation of virtually every aspect of life and family management. An example is the new directive from the British government to school officials that they can and should use their “common law powers” to search student lunches to remove and destroy “unhealthy or inappropriate.” Education minister Lord Nash issued the directive to cover unhealthy items listed by the school that are now barred. Teachers can now “confiscate, keep or destroy” such snacks.

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Good Day For Election Reformists; Bad Day For Environmentalists

Supreme CourtI am doing some coverage at CNN but, in addition to the predictable rejection of the lethal injection challenge, the Court handed down two major decisions. In Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the Court ruled 5-4 that states could effectively take away redistricting decisions from state legislatures — a key move to try to end the scourge of gerrymandering. In Michigan v. EPA, the Court again split 5-4 in ruling that the EPA must consider the costs to industry in setting environmental limitations — in the case involving arsenic emissions — under the Clean Air Act.

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Seattle Police Action Against Sign Warning Motorists Of Oncoming Speed Trap Likely A Violation Of Free Speech Rights

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

From screen shot: KOMO News
From screen shot: KOMO News

While this might seem to some as a Tempest in a Tea Pot involving only a traffic infraction, the actions of a Seattle Police Department Motor Traffic Unit could put the city into a legal liability for a violation of free speech rights.

Several days ago, Daniel Gehlke saw motorcycle officers set up near the intersection of 14th Avenue South and South Washington and begin enforcing stop sign and speed laws. Mr. Gehlke then obtained a Rubbermaid container lid and wrote thereon the words “COPS AHEAD! Stop at sign and light!” He stood nearby the intersection displaying the lid to warn drivers of the traffic unit’s presence and recommend compliance with the law.

Unfortunately for Mr. Gehlke the traffic unit took exception to this and cited him under a Seattle Municipal Ordinance making the display of a sign “bearing any such words as ‘danger,’ ‘stop,’ ‘slow,'” and more… [with] Directions likely to be construed as giving warning to or regulating traffic.”

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Sister Wives Case Cited In Supreme Court’s Historic Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

240px-sister_wives_tv_series_logo220px-File-Official_roberts_CJ_croppedI am still doing commentary on today’s history ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. It was a remarkable day for all of us outside of the Court. As many of us quickly read through the opinions, hundreds of people broke out into song: singing our national anthem. It never sounded so beautiful or so meaningful. As I went live with Jake Tapper on CNN, I noticed a familiar reference however. The Chief Justice cited to the Sister Wives litigation now pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. I am lead counsel for the Brown family, which prevailed in striking down the criminalization of cohabitation in Utah. The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets also discussed our case.

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Obamacare Spared Through “Jiggery-Pokery”?

scaliaSupreme CourtI spent most of the day opining in front of the Supreme Court and in studies on the 6-3 ruling in favor of the Obama Administration in King v. Burwell. I will not subject you to more of that analysis. I have previously indicated that I found the opposing view of the Halbig decision against the Administration to be compelling, though I have always viewed this to be a difficult question upon which people of good-faith could disagree. Yet, in both my prior congressional testimony and my columns, I have never accused the Administration of “jiggery-pokery” — largely because I was not sure what jiggery-pokery is. However, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia has written a stinging dissent to King that contains the memorable accusation that the majority was engaging in “interpretive jiggery-pokery.”

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Pennsylvania Politicians Seeks To Impose Registry and Other Limitations In Strip Clubs

2350px-poledsc325We have previously discussed efforts of politicians to add costs or otherwise harass owners and customers of strip joints for moral, social, or political reasons. Both feminists and religious right advocates have targeted the businesses. The latest such effort is being spearheaded by Pennsylvania state Rep. Matthew Baker, R-Tioga, who admits that he has introduced a new draconian measure to respond to faith-based groups. His bill would force strippers to register with the state, ban alcohol in strip joints and create a buffer zone between dancers and patrons (effectively barring “lap dances.”).

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