SCOTUS swiftly revokes right to protest on court grounds
Just two days after a judge struck down a decades-old law banning protests on Supreme Court grounds, the nation’s highest court has in effect restored it with a new rule governing conduct on its premises.
The ban, first passed by Congress in 1949, was struck down Tuesday with extreme prejudice by Obama-appointed Judge Beryl A. Howell, who called it “repugnant” and a clear violation of the First Amendment.
“This clause could apply to, and provide criminal penalties for, any group parading or assembling for any conceivable purpose, even, for example, the familiar line of preschool students from federal agency daycare centers, holding hands with chaperones, parading on the plaza on their first field trip to the Supreme Court,” she wrote, adding that not even attorneys and court employees were exempt from the overly-broad law.
Howell’s ruling (PDF) meant, for the first time in more than half a century, protesters would be allowed on the Supreme Court’s plaza instead of being relegated to the sidewalk where they typically gather.
Or it would have, that is, if the Supreme Court didn’t nip it in the bud almost immediately. According to The Associated Press, a rule the court issued Thursday bans “picketing, speech-making, marching or vigils” on the Supreme Court’s plaza, while explicitly making way for “casual use” by visitors.
The rule was issued ahead of highly-anticipated Supreme Court decisions on the legality of same sex marriage, which has always attracted crowds of boisterous protesters to the court’s doorstep.