Free Speech

No First Amendment Right for Protesters to Use Courthouse Restrooms

Yesterday’s Socratic method post followed up today with Jungian analysis.

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From Judge William F. Jung's opinion Friday in Poor & Minority Justice Ass'n, Inc. v. Chief Judge (M.D. Fla.):

In November 2019, Plaintiffs protested outside the Polk County Courthouse in Bartow, Florida. They sought to enter the courthouse to use the restroom during their protest, but were refused admittance. They now claim they "experienced humiliation and bodily anguish from having to hold their urination and walk one or more blocks to the nearest restroom," and "the protest had to be ended due to sanitation and health concerns, stemming from the lack of access" to courthouse restrooms….

[But c]ourthouse restrooms are not open to the public at large, and courthouse interiors are neither forums for protest nor support facilities for protests elsewhere. As such, persons who are not attending the courthouse for court purposes may be excluded from it, however righteous their purposes may be…. The general public may not come off the street and use courthouse restrooms like they would at a park. See United States v. Gilbert (11th Cir. 1991) (affirming injunction barring protestor from using courthouse bathroom). These restrooms are reserved for the use and comfort of litigants, court attendees, lawyers, jurors, and staff.

The interior of the courthouse is a nonpublic forum. Because of this, the courthouse's restroom policy need only be "viewpoint neutral and reasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum." … Plaintiffs concede the restroom policy is viewpoint neutral…. Plaintiffs acknowledge the policy does not change depending on the message of protestors. Plaintiffs do not allege any facts showing a disparate impact between groups, nor do they allege the courthouse admitted groups with different viewpoints for restroom breaks.

The restroom policy is also reasonable. If the Polk County Courthouse were to grant the general public access to its restrooms, this could burden actual courthouse business. There are often long security lines during the jury venire scramble and daily docket calls at county courthouses. Numerous litigants, court watchers, jurors, witnesses, and court staff pass through security each day.

Adding members of the public with no court business could disproportionately burden courthouse staff and disrupt official courthouse business. And Plaintiffs do not plausibly allege that protesting outside on the sidewalk is actual, real court business.

The undersigned has visited the Polk County courthouse as a practicing attorney on several occasions. Frankly, the lobby area could be quite busy. One to two blocks away, however, there are several public restrooms available—all easily accessible without the extra burden of passing security. Plaintiffs have acknowledged this. See Dkt. 41 at 29 (stating that Plaintiffs walked "one or more blocks to the nearest restroom" after being denied entry to the courthouse). Yet they still claim the entire 50-person protest had to end because three participants could not access courthouse restrooms. This allegation is simply implausible given the many restrooms nearby. Indeed, passing through courthouse security may have been even more disruptive to the protest than walking a block or two to the nearby public restrooms.

This is not a case where anyone's speech was curtailed or threatened. Plaintiffs make no claim that their First Amendment rights were infringed in any way while they protested outside the courthouse. They also fail to establish that their inability to enter the courthouse was in any way related to their viewpoints. And restroom use itself is not expressive conduct….

Plaintiffs' claims based on the Fourth and Thirteenth Amendments are facially meritless…. [T]he facts of this case present no actual seizure, arrest, or stop. Nor do they present any forced labor. Such expansions of the law must therefore await a more apt case….

Because the Court determines there was no First Amendment violation or improper discrimination here, the Court offers no lengthy discussion of the other clear flaws in the [Complaint]. This fifth attempt at stating a cause of action should be the last. Plaintiffs have not cured the deficiencies pointed out in their earlier filings. Because any further amendment would be futile, the Court dismisses this case with prejudice.

As to the Socratic method, see this post.

NEXT: More on Statistical Stupidity at SCOTUS

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  1. It might be a wise thing to permit, however.

    1. Round these parts, the urine goes into Gatorade bottles that are then thrown at police officers.

      1. Urine goes into plastic sandwich bags for throwing. Gatorade bottles are not glass and do not break or shatter. If you ever went to support the US soccer team against Central American opponents, you would know these things.

    2. Why? What wisdom is there in permitting protestors to overwhelm and distract security at the courthouse? You know as well as everyone else that any protestors making such nonsensical claims as this are only itching to bring their protest inside the courthouse. And if you don’t, you are too gullible and naive to believe.

      1. You know, Cohen v. California has been effectively mooted because security would never permit someone wearing an offensive jacket into the courthouse in the first place.

        HOW did they maintain order in the 1960s when anyone could go into a courthouse?

        1. Had the courts invented porta potties as requirements, allowing their absence as an unconstitutional veto on peaceable assembly yet in 1960?

          1. Dude, Ed is just bullshitting again.

            Security doesn’t prevent you from entering courthouses due to offensive jackets.

            1. Depends. Is “Fully informed juries!” offensive?

              1. No, it’s illegal and is a form of jury tampering.

                1. No. Targeting specific jurors may be.

            2. It does in Massachusetts….

              1. It does not in DC.

                And quite frankly, from your history I think you’re lying.

                1. You’re kind of being overly charitable to him there. Of course he’s lying.

  2. An interesting MA law which appears not to apply to BLM:

    268 MGL 13A: Whoever, with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty, pickets or parades in or near a building housing a court of the commonwealth, or in or near a building or residence occupied or used by such judge, juror, witness, or court officer, shall be punished by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

    1. That statute is designed to thwart jury nullification advocates.

      1. Which is what they successfully accomplished in the Jason Vassal matter.

    2. What evidence would you point to that shows the BLM protesters you’re thinking of were acting with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty?

      1. Purely conjectural. BLM protestors have not shown much interest in keeping rioters away. The evidence here shows they found restrooms only a block away, and only three wanted to use the courthouse restrooms, so the lawsuit itself reeks of unnecessity.

        1. If by that you mean they’ve been rioting themselves for at least 5 years, yeah, they haven’t been showing much interest in keeping rioters away.

  3. “Experienced humiliation and bodily anguish from having to hold their urination and walk one or more blocks to the nearest restroom,” and “the protest had to be ended due to sanitation and health concerns, stemming from the lack of access?” Not exactly demonstrating the courage of their convictions, minus these ridiculous claims and nuisance suit, which is to say, not at all.

    1. Yeah, it’s just … pathetic.

      “Brave Protestor” is not a compelling front when you claim you’re humiliated by having to walk to a restroom?

      There’s nothing humiliating about having to pee every now and then, and walking off to a restroom to do it; it’s utterly normal and commonplace human behavior, thought ill of by nobody.

      People in all manner of other protests somehow manage to walk to a restroom and urinate without it ending their protest or somehow causing them humiliation.

      (And if you were uncomfortable because you decided to hold it? That’s all on you, pal. Nobody made you.

      And the First Amendment does not include the power to compel people to make your protest slightly more convenient and avoid walking to a restroom like everyone else.)

      1. Humility is often considered a positive trait.
        Why then is humiliation not similarly seen as a good thing.

      2. When these same people sue legal street and craft fairs they regularly attend because they have to walk several times this distance to the nearest rent-a-potties let me kn…

        Hehehe I just remembered an ancient case where a porta potty company got sued by Johnny Carson for calling their product, “Here’s Johnny!”

      3. I’m going to guess that, unless they’ve had prostate surgery, none of these protesters have the least clue about what “humiliation and bodily anguish from having to hold their urination and walk one or more blocks to the nearest restroom” is really like.

  4. I am disappointed that Prof V failed to note that this was exactly how H&H Bagels broke Kramer’s strike. FRAUD!

  5. Call it a campaign contribution, perhaps.

    Mr. D.

  6. The jokes write themselves.

  7. Someone with an enlarged prostate and urinary urgency should sue the Courthouse for its violation of the ADAAAAAA.

    1. Pfft, people with enlarged prostates at least still HAVE that primary urinary sphincter. They just have trouble completely voiding.

      Take that sphincter away, and you go from perfectly comfortable to physical agony in a flash, with little warning. There’s a reason guys who have had that surgery habitually wear black pants…

      1. A problem that is not caused by the lawyer profession.

  8. [Potential sub-titles]
    Good ruling, your honor. On a scale of 1 to 10, you’re an 8.

    The ruling might have made court’s legal team flush with victory, while the losing side felt down in the dumps, and the protesters were just pissed off.

    I might have lost on my first argument. But wait till you seen Number Two.

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