On Thursday, the ACLU of West Virginia announced a settlement in Rank v. Jenkins, a case that charged the Secret Service and Office of Presidential Advance for violating a couple’s free speech rights at a presidential event.
Three years ago, Texans Jeff and Nicole Rank attended President Bush’s Fourth of July address on the West Virginia capitol grounds. But unlike most of crowd in attendance, the Ranks went to express their displeasure with the President. They did so by wearing homemade T-shirts with slogans critical of the President. When the event staffers saw the Ranks, they demanded they either cover their shirts, or leave the event. When the couple responded by asserting their First Amendment right to free speech, they were arrested for trespassing, handcuffed, and removed from the event.
The ACLU represented the couple in their lawsuit against Greg Jenkins, then the Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of White House Advance. In an interview with political writer Chris Weigant in The Huffington Post, ACLU attorney Jonathan Miller said:
I think that the settlement of the West Virginia case demonstrates that the White House and the Department of Justice are concerned about the Jenkins case…we think the size of the settlement, and the fact that it came so close to the August 14th trial date, indicate serious concerns on the part of the Justice Department and the White House about their ability to successfully prosecute these cases before a jury.
The Charleston Gazette has a great article about the settlement; you can learn more about the case at www.aclu.org/silenced.