Archive for the ‘Free Speech’ Category

150px-YouTube_logo.svgCalifornia lawyer Daniel Bornstein is controversial for his work on behalf of landlords and the use of eviction laws in San Francisco. It was not entirely unexpected therefore when protesters suddenly appeared at a 2014 seminar on eviction law. I have always opposed such protests that seek to prevent others from hearing the views of speakers or teachers. I can understand therefore why Bornstein was upset. However, he has been accused by an activist of taking the step of filing a copyright infringement claim with YouTube to get the company to pull a video of the incident below. It is not clear if the video below is the same video or whether some material has been removed from the original.
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Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

City of Moses Lake LogoA controversy developed in Moses Lake, Washington over a Fourth Congressional Candidate’s and his supporters’ placement of campaign signs on city owned property and rights of way in the city.

House hopeful Gavin Seim declined to agree to a required use permit in placement of his campaign signs calling the permitting and removal of his signs a violation of his free speech and his right to participate in government.

Moses Lake City Manager Joe Gavinski claims the policy somehow protects the public. The city’s government permits six campaign free speech zones within its jurisdiction.

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Submitted By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Streisand Estate

Le Cap Streisand

We previously reported of an outrageous lawsuit by the owners of the Il Giardino Restaurant in Cap Ferret, France who sued a blogger critical of the dining experience, HERE. Essentially Caroline Doudet was sued by the restaurant’s owners because her allegedly disparaging blog post ranked highly on Google searches for the restaurant–fourth in a Google search return the lawsuit claimed. The title of her critique was in the English, “The place to avoid in Cap Ferret, Il Giardino” and was the cause leading to the lawsuit, according to paperwork filed.

“I was really stunned and disgusted, and of course I will worry now [whenever I] write a negative review,” Doudet said of the effect of the case in an e-mail to Wired.co.uk. “I regret the article, because it’s so much noise for nothing.”

Nevertheless a French Court handed down an emergency ruling blocking the article’s title and awarding Il Giardino €2,500 in fines and court costs.

The restaurant’s owners claimed the title defamed them, causing great damage to a business they worked fifteen years, seven days a week to build and the Google ranking was causing them increasing harm. But in what became a new definition of “Damage Award” the internet came alive and rendered a harsh judgment in its court of appeals. Fame became infâme. And the repercussions were magnifique.

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libertyFor years, we have lamented the wholesale attack on free speech in France from ever-expanding hate speech ruling to stripping away anonymity on the Internet to censorship of expression to criminalizing historical claims (though the last move was later reversed). The erosion of such protection has never been so evident as with the ruling against blogger Caroline Doudet. A French judge has issued an emergency ruling forcing that one of the titles of a blog restaurant critique be changed to reduce its prominence on Google and for Doudet to pay damages. It is an absurd ruling and frightening in its implications for free speech. France appears to have dived headlong into speech regulation and censorship.

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No_alcoholIn Kano, Nigeria, 55 people have been arrested and convicted for alcohol consumption in violation of Sharia law. Making the violation more serious in the view of the Sharia “judges” is the fact that they were drinking during Ramadan. They received four months in prison for failing to live up to the religious demands of their government.

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220px-TangopenguinThe Singapore government is supporting the National Library Board in the plan to destroy a children’s book detailing the real-life story of two male penguins raising a baby chick in New York’s zoo. It appears that the government views “And Tango Makes Three” to be nothing more than penguin perversion.

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220px-Scene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_StatesWe have long discussed the erosion of civil liberties in the United States, including the attacks on privacy and other rights by the Obama Administration. It appears that we are not alone in those concerns. A new Gallup poll shows a record drop in the satisfaction of Americans over their freedoms. The massive drop is matched in such countries as Egypt, Pakistan, and Venezuela.

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article-2678407-1F5783BE00000578-929_634x341Pamela Konchinsky, 56, was headed to work on June 17th in her silver 2004 Toyota minivan when she was pulled over by two police cars — one with its lights going. The officers spotted a joke bumper sticker on the minivan window reading “Unmarked police car” and were not amused. The officers made Konchinsky pull off the bumper sticker. The Indianapolis police department is now being sued for good reason for the abusive stop and treatment. The ACLU has filed the case.

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1024px-Eustache_Le_Sueur_003There is an interesting complaint that has been filed against a church in New Zealand that touches on an issue that we previously discussed. In the United States, it is common for religious figures to claim to faith heal and recently we have seen some religious business suggest that they have divinely inspired products or services to sell. We have discussed whether such pitches constitute false advertising. Now the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is the subject of a formal complaint for advertising a prayer session to heal health problems including “incurable diseases.”

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Supreme Court225px-010_alitoToday’s ruling in Hobby Lobby is the type of decision that tends to suck the oxygen out of the room. For that reason, the important decision in Harris v. Quinn could be overlooked. At issue in the case is the viability of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education— the 1977 opinion held that the government could constitutionally condition a person’s employment in the public sector on the paying fees to a union. As I mentioned on CNN last night, this is a major decision that is being pushed from the coverage but deserves more attention. As anticipated, Justice Alito wrote the decision and ruled against the union.

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Supreme CourtIn a major (and increasingly rare) victory for privacy, the Supreme Court voted unanimously to require a warrant for police to search cellphones of arrested individuals. Chief Justice Roberts issued a consolidated opinion in two cases: Riley v. California, No. 13-132, and United States v. Wurie, No. 13-212. The second case is another loss for the Obama Administration which fought to strip citizens of privacy over their cellphone records — a consistent attack on privacy by this Administration. The Supreme Court also issued a major ruling in favor of cable companies in American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc., a decision that may not sit well with the many citizens who despise these companies. I will be discussing these decision on CNN with Wolf Blitzer today.

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Photojournalist-wins-200K-settlement-for-illegal-arrest-300x160We have yet another settlement against a police department for the arrest of a citizen for videotaping police in public. We have been following the continuing abuse of citizens who are detained or arrested for filming police in public. (For prior columns, click here and here). Despite consistent rulings upholding the right of citizens to film police in public (most recently here), these abuses continue. New York photojournalist Philip Datz won a $200,000 settlement stemming for his 2011 arrest during which Suffolk County Police Sergeant Michael Milton proclaimed “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. There’s nothing you can hold over my head or anybody out there.”
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supreme court220px-Clarence_ThomasThe Supreme Court has handed down a unanimous decision in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. This is an important case for the free speech community. It involved poorly written Ohio laws that SBA prohibit the use of false statements in campaign advertisements. It allows politicians to harass public interest groups and force them into costly administrative litigation. The case was brought by the pro-life organization, the Susan B. Anthony List (“SBA List”). Associate Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion for the Court in finding that SBA had sufficient injury to bring the challenge, another victory this term for standing this term after years of disastrous rollbacks by the Court that have barred groups from the courts. The SBA case was one of those considered by my Supreme Court class and once again the class got the prediction right and also mirrored the Court on the merits. We voted 8-2 to reverse the Sixth Circuit. We then voted 9-1 in predicting a reversal.

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Steven-PeersPolice in Manchester have decided not to press charges against Steven Peers who was arrested for impersonating an officer. The twist is that Peers was wearing a pig mask at the time and a toy bobby’s helmet. Peers is an electrical engineer who uses his comic character ‘Officer 666’ to highlight the “violence, corruption and bad behavior.”

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By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

meriam-yehya-ibrahim-apostasy-sharia-law-sudanAfter an international outrage and widespread condemnation following the death sentence of a pregnant, Christian Sudanese woman accused apostasy and adultery for her marriage to a Christian man, the Sudanese Government has publicly stated it would instead release Meriam Yehya Ibrahim from custody.

BBC News reports that Abdullahi Alzareg, an under-secretary at the foreign ministry, said Sudan guaranteed religious freedom and was committed to protecting the woman who was to be release in a few days.

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