Wyoming Ban on Gathering “Resource Data” Subject to the First Amendment

Wyoming makes it a crime to cross private land (trespass) and “collect resource data” on adjacent public land–a crime that carries a more severe punishment than ordinary trespassing. The law broadly defines both “collect” and “resource data.” The former applies whenever people “take a sample of material” or “acquire, gather, photograph or otherwise preserve information in… Read More Wyoming Ban on Gathering “Resource Data” Subject to the First Amendment

Police Department’s Policy Banning Discussion of K-9 Program Unconstitutional

Nevada Highway Patrol Major Kevin Tice announced a policy prohibiting officers from talking about the K-9 program with anyone outside the department.  Some officers complained that Tice’s policy was designed to prevent them from publicizing problems in the K9 program.  So they sued Tice, alleging that the policy’s restriction on speech violated the First Amendment.… Read More Police Department’s Policy Banning Discussion of K-9 Program Unconstitutional

New Orleans Suburb Cannot Require Panhandlers to Obtain Permits

Slidell, Louisiana, is a city of about 30,000 people about 35 miles from downtown New Orleans. In the last two years, they received 70 complaints related to panhandling, but police were only able to identify the individuals complained of for 14 of those 70 complaints. In response, the city enacted an ordinance meant to help… Read More New Orleans Suburb Cannot Require Panhandlers to Obtain Permits

“Occupy Chicago” Protesters Lose Their Free Speech Challenge After Nearly Six Years

Remember the “Occupy” movement/protests from fall 2011? Well some participants in the Chicago chapter of the movement got their (likely) final day in court this summer. Occupy Chicago took place mainly in Grant Park in downtown Chicago, right along Lake Michigan. The city generally didn’t interfere with the movement until over 100 protesters sought “permanent… Read More “Occupy Chicago” Protesters Lose Their Free Speech Challenge After Nearly Six Years

South Carolina Prison Guard Fired for Whistle-Blowing About Inmate Mistreatment

Michael Billioni worked in the central control area of a prison where he could see all the security camera footage–past and present. He saw something disturbing, told his wife (who told a reporter), denied to his boss that he told anyone, later confessed, and then was fired. Now, he’s suing, claiming that he had a First… Read More South Carolina Prison Guard Fired for Whistle-Blowing About Inmate Mistreatment

Louisiana Sheriff Prosecutes Blogger, Likely Violated First Amendment

Jennifer Anderson set up an anonymous blog and Facebook page called “Exposedat.” Her goal was to highlight and question intertwined personal and business relationships involving public officials in her parish in Louisiana. (Louisiana doesn’t have counties; they have “parishes.”) She made a particular set of postings that got her into hot water with the local sheriff.… Read More Louisiana Sheriff Prosecutes Blogger, Likely Violated First Amendment

Connecticut Woman’s Profanity-Laced Tirade at Storekeeper Protected

Nina Baccala stopped by a store in Connecticut one afternoon to transfer some money through Western Union. The store’s manager said she was too late. Nina was not happy; she called the manager “fat” and “ugly” along with several other profanities. She was later convicted of breach of peace and sentenced to 25 days in jail. The Supreme Court of Connecticut… Read More Connecticut Woman’s Profanity-Laced Tirade at Storekeeper Protected

FBI’s Gag Orders to Internet Companies Are Constitutional

The FBI sometimes seeks the aid of private tech companies. Those companies have sometimes pushed back. Today’s case is the latest chapter. The FBI conducts national-security investigations. No real surprise there. To help them, a federal law authorizes the FBI to send a “national security letter” or “NSL” to a “wire or electronic communication service provider” requesting… Read More FBI’s Gag Orders to Internet Companies Are Constitutional

First Amendment Protects Right to Film On-Duty Police Officers

This is another decision affirming the right to record on-duty police officers in public. The facts here are unsurprising:  some people filmed some police officers, the officers didn’t like it, arrested the filmers, filmers sued. Filming police is–as the court said–a “common practice.”  Think of all of the on-duty police you’ve seen on film recently:… Read More First Amendment Protects Right to Film On-Duty Police Officers

North Carolina Cannot Prohibit Sex Offenders from Using Facebook

This case has the potential to be one of the most important First Amendment cases you might never hear about. Lester Packingham plead guilty in 2002 to “taking indecent liberties with a child” for having sex with a 13-year-old girl when he was 21. This made him a registered sex offender. Fast forward 8 years.… Read More North Carolina Cannot Prohibit Sex Offenders from Using Facebook