Free State Project

Keene, New Hampshire, Continues Legal Fight Against Free Staters Paying Meters, Speaking to Their Meter Enforcement Agents

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The city of Keene, New Hampshire, continues to spend its citizens money trying to prevent local Free State Project activists from daring to pay expired meters and talk to meter enforcement officers, as reported in the New Hampshire Union-Leader:

The city's appeal of the dismissed lawsuit against 'Robin Hooders' is set to come before the state Supreme Court this month…In the city appeal, [city hired attorney Charles P.] Bauer argues that the Cheshire County Superior Court erred in finding the Robin Hooders' actions are protected under free speech.

"The defendants do not have a First Amendment right to create hostile conditions that are intended to force municipal employees to choose between suffering daily and ongoing harassment or quitting their jobs," Bauer states in the appeal filed with the Supreme Court in June.

The city filed a lawsuit in May 2013 against six citizens who are part of a group who have dubbed themselves Robin Hood of Keene….All but one in the group admitted to patrolling downtown armed with video cameras and pockets full of change to fill expired parking meters before a city parking enforcement officer can issue a ticket….

Then the city filed a second suit in September 2013 seeking monetary damages from the citizens. But:

In December, both civil lawsuits by the city against the group were dismissed by Cheshire County Superior Court judge John Kissinger.

In his Dec. 3 decisions, Kissinger granted the group's motions to dismiss based on their argument that it was within their constitutional right to free speech. 

I blogged in May about the state's earlier failed efforts to punish Keene's anti-meter maid activism in court.

NEXT: Supreme Court Weighs Police Officer's 'Mistake of Law' in Fourth Amendment Case

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  1. All but one in the group admitted to patrolling downtown armed with video cameras and pockets full of change to fill expired parking meters before a city parking enforcement officer can issue a ticket….

    What exactly is the problem here? Does parking enforcement get paid on commission?

    1. I think they are being obnoxious and sometimes abusive to the meter maids. Which is unpleasant, I’m sure. But that part is definitely free speech as long as they aren’t threatening or obstructing them.

      I live very close to Keene and the Keene anarchists are an interesting bunch. Sort of the wacky anarchist branch of the Free Sate Project.

    2. What? What do you think the problem is!? How dare these free stater anarchist rat fucking bagger koch brother funded terrorists come between the state and it’s war on the citizens. This is WAR, mister, WAR! That’s what the problem is! You want anarchy? Go live in Somalia! You want utopia, then stay here and accept that we have to have continuous war and a little soft tyranny to stop you anarchists from destroying Murika!

    3. The usual argument by authorities, which may be backed up by ordinance (Not to mention ordnance!), is that they don’t care who’s feeding the meters, parking more than the marked interval is illegal, even if paid for. The parking space is an underpriced good, so access to it is partly regulated by rationing, to keep whoever gets there 1st from hogging it. Nearby merchants & other businesses may appreciate the turnover, depending on how long business takes, but usually they’ll take the side of the parker vs. the meter readers, whether sincerely or not.

      1. But technically it’s not whoever’s putting money in the meter who’s committing the violation; the parker is.

    4. What exactly is the problem here?

      The fine is bigger than the fee. By paying the fee the scofflaws deprive the city of their right to collect the fine.

      And the fine is just the tip of the iceberg. By paying the fee the scofflaws deprive the city of their right to court costs, failure-to-appear fines, warrant fees, arrest charges, vehicle impoundment charges, etc.

      Yes, I threw up a bit typing that.

  2. I feel kind of bad for the meter maids. They are just doing a job, and parking fines aren’t completely unreasonable (they’d certainly exist in some form if the parking were private).

    But, whether or not it is protected speech, banning people from feeding other people’s meters is just being a dick. And bound to be selectively enforced.

    1. I was a witness to a meter war in Annapolis once. All of the people were ganging up on a meter maid because she was ticketing cars who attendants were parking outside the restaurant for valet parking. The restaurant was really busy, but it was around 7pm in the evening and there was no real lack of parking at all, just that most of the free spots were across a very wide street, probably unchanged since the 1700s.

      Apparently, this had been going on for some time because tempers flared. I do remember the meter maid being called bitch, cunt, and just about everything else that a bitch cunt could be called.

      I didn’t even feel the least bit sorry for her. In fact, I think I remember cheering along with the rest of the crowd who were dining outside of the restaurant when meter bitch cunt finally left.

    2. If the meter is priced properly, you would prefer people feed the meter.

      1. That depends what “properly” means. Each marginal minute may not have the same value to either the occupier of the space or those who stand to benefit from the space’s being unoccupied.

  3. “Then the city filed a second suit in September 2013 seeking monetary damages from the citizens.”

    They were paying the meters like the city wanted. The mask slips.

    Could it be? Gasp!!! The city would rather people be fined?!?

    1. Think of it like the “late fee” at Blockbuster.

  4. Maybe these stoic agents of the state need a trip to Warty’s to better understand what constitutes a hostile environment.

  5. Serious libertarian question: As much as depriving the Keene Parking Authority (or whatever it’s called) of revenue is a noble goal, aren’t the Free Staters’ subsidy of Keene motorists’ parking distorting the price of a scare resource?

    1. Then the city should raise the price.

      1. Or, more correctly, cell the spots to a private parking concern.

        1. Doesn’t change the situation unless coin-op parking meters are abolished and replaced with credit card swipe meters.

        2. But would having the street be privately owned by a profit-making entity be economically efficient or just? It’s one thing if you build a shopping mall with a parking garage that charges for time, but quite another if you own a concern on a lot serviced by a street that was already there before your establishment was built. Not quite as bad as the only bridge to an island, but the same general idea.

          1. I think a better sol’n would be to deed the street out to the middle to whoever owns the lot fronting on that part. They already usually own part of the sidewalk. There would still be a public easement for passage, of course.

          2. Deed out past the parking, not the street. Or deed it all to the *OA. And let them deal with it.

    2. aren’t the Free Staters’ subsidy of Keene motorists’ parking distorting the price of a scare resource?

      Distorting the price inasmuch as giving someone money for an iPhone6 destroys the price of the smartphone market.

      These are agents acting of their free will. And it’s costing them money. If anything, they’re giving the people allowing their meters to run out a false sense of security– which means they could be sending MORE money to the city’s coffers in the long run.

  6. It should be illegal to do good things for other people if it’s out of the kindness of your heart.

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