ACLU Continues To Challenge First Amendment Violation In Parallel Lawsuits Against Government Officials
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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two Denver residents who were ejected from a speech by President Bush in 2005 for arriving in a car with a bumper sticker that read "No More Blood for Oil." The lawsuit charged that the constitutional rights of Leslie Weise and Alex Young were violated when they were removed from the public event because their opinions differed with those of the president. The ACLU then filed a certiorari petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case after a federal district court dismissed the case and an appeals court upheld that ruling.
The lawsuit was filed against two volunteers who removed Weise and Young from the event under the direction of government officials. The Court declined to hear the case, but the denial of certiorari in the case against the volunteers leaves open the possibility that it could eventually hear one of two other ACLU cases arising from the same incident that were filed against the government employees who authorized the removal.
In her dissent of the Court's decision to deny certiorari, Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sotomayor, wrote that she could not "see how reasonable public officials, or any staff or volunteers under their direction, could have viewed the bumper sticker as a permissible reason for depriving Weise and Young of access to the event." She added that she could see "only one arguable reason for deferring the question this case presents. Respondents were volunteers following instructions from White House officials," and therefore could be shielded from liability by the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997. She added, "Federal officials themselves, however, gain no shelter from that Act. Suits against the officials responsible for Weise's and Young's ouster remain pending and may offer this Court an opportunity to take up the issue avoided today."
The following can be attributed to Chris Hansen, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project and lead attorney on the case:
"While we are disappointed that the Supreme Court will not review such a clear violation of First Amendment rights at this time, today's denial of certiorari leaves open the possibility that the issue will one day come before the Court. The notion that the government can exclude anyone it chooses from such an event, just because their point of view is at odds with that of the president, is unconstitutional and un-American. We are confident that the wrong done to Leslie Weise and Alex Young will one day be righted."
More information about the case is available online at: www.aclu.org/free-speech/protest-and-president