Former “Storage Wars” Star Tries to Put Show’s Producers in Storage

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By Andrew Koob

Since December 2012, A&E network and former “Storage Wars” member Dave Hester has
been in a legal entanglement based on his firing from the show for complaining that producers put valuable items in certain garages to make the show more interesting.

Hester, with the help of his legal team, filed the lawsuit on the grounds of the Unfair Business Practices, which, in California, states:

“As used in this chapter, unfair competition shall mean and include any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice and unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising and any act prohibited by Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17500) of Part 3 of Division 7 of the Business and Professions Code” (Business and Professions Code, Section 17200).

While some of the issues brought to the courts have not been ruled upon yet, the Los Angeles Superior Court has sided with the network on the charges made by of the Unfair Business Practices. According to a March 13th report on Yahoo.com, Hester did not provide enough information and evidence to stake a claim that the First Amendment does not protect the network’s rights. Judge Michael Johnson, who oversaw the case, said that Hester did not provide “any citation to a particular policy within the Act” (Kenneally, 2013).

Even though one of the charges has been thrown out by the L.A. Superior Court, Hester and his legal team has argued that the network had violated the Communications Act of 1934, which states:

“It shall be unlawful for any person, with intent to deceive the listening or viewing public–(1) To supply to any contestant in a purportedly bona fide contest of intellectual knowledge or intellectual skill any special and secret assistance whereby the outcome of such contest will be in whole or in part prearranged or predetermined” (Communications Act of 1934, Section 508 [47 U.S.C. 508], page 246).

Johnson, however, did not agree with Hester’s legal team, saying that, once again, Hester and his legal team’s argument was unpersuasive.

This sort of lawsuit is unprecedented, as the only other reality show to ever hit the courts was due to a claim that a blogger was trying to induce contestants of The Bachelor to give him spoilers, a clear breach of contract for the participants. The ruling that comes down from the Storage Wars case may ultimately clarify later whether or not producers can claim that their show is truly reality, when in actuality that is not the case.

Is California’s Proposition 35 a Hidden Attempt to Limit the Rights of Sex Offenders?

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By Steve Thornton

With the recent Election in November 2012, the state of California passed a controversial ballot initiative known as Proposition 35 or the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, which stated that sex offenders would be monitored in the digital realm. Under the new law, sex offenders in California must inform authorities of their e-mail addresses, user names, and screen names. Sex offenders must inform authorities of any changes made to Internet handles within 24 hours (The New York Times). Proposition 35 also deals with prison terms for human trafficking.

Despite the fact that the information provided by the sex offenders will not be included in the public registry that lists names and addresses of sex offenders, the American Civil Liberties Union brought about a lawsuit against the new law arguing that the new requirements violate the First Amendment because they infringe on the right to free, anonymous speech on the Internet. Additionally, the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued to block portions of the law. Both groups claimed that the new law restriction regulations concerning online speech are very broad. Originally, two registered sex offenders and a group called California Reform Sex Offender Laws filed the actual lawsuit on November 7, 2012. In contrast, California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris defended the ballot measure, which was voter-approved. Attorney General Harris denied any claims that the law was unconstitutional.

The issue here is whether or not California’s Proposition 35 violates the First Amendment rights of free speech and free association. In California, there are currently 75,000 registered sex offenders that would be required to turn over all of their online login information. One question that needs to be answered is whether or not the new law is narrowly tailored to California’s government’s specific interest in fighting online sex offenses. Plaintiffs stated that the new law is so broadly written that sex offenders could be required to turn over their bank account login information (The Huffington Post). Other people argue that Proposition 35 severely limits the Internet freedom of sex offenders whose crimes were completely separate from the online realm. No one is denying that stopping human trafficking is an important goal of Proposition 35, but the part of the proposition that limits Internet freedom of all sex offenders is not essential in limiting human trafficking. The law is basically further punishing all sex offenders, including those who have already completed their probation or parole terms, by not granting them full protection of the First Amendment.
When looking at the likely outcome of this case, it is important to look at Simon & Schuster, Inc. 4 v. Members of N.Y. State Crime Victims Bd., 502 U.S. 105 (1991). In 1991, this ruling shot down a New York law that attempted to interfere with criminals’ profiting from works involving/describing their criminal actions (Simon & Schuster, Inc. V Members of the New York State Crime Victims Board). Although Proposition 35 does not openly ban anonymous online speech, it interferes with California sex offender’s rights to free and anonymous online speech. California lawmakers are attempting to censor online speech rights of sex offenders by monitoring them constantly.Recently, a federal judge in San Francisco issued an injunction on January 11 to stall the implementation of California’s Proposition 35 that was approved by 81 percent of California voters. Federal Judge Thelton Henderson wrote, “it is undisputed that speech by sex offenders who have completed their terms of probation or parole enjoys the full protection of the First Amendment” (The Huffington Post). Additionally, Henderson stated that he is not convinced that limiting the anonymous speech rights of all sex offenders in California is narrowly tailored to the interest of the government in fighting online sex offenses. The American Civil Liberties Union in California believes that halting Proposition 35 is a key step in making sure that the First Amendment is not ignored. Henderson’s injunction prevents Proposition 35 from being enforced until the case is concluded. One of the main supporters of Proposition 35 is Chris Kelly, a one-time chief privacy officer for Facebook. Kelly believes that the law would simply add “an extra field in the database of what sex offenders have to register” (The New York Times).

The court will likely use strict scrutiny because the test states that a law must be narrowly tailored to the government’s legitimate interests. Many argue that Proposition 35 is constitutional when concerning the prison terms for human trafficking, but is unconstitutional because limiting the online speech rights of sex offenders is not of important government interest. The speech in Proposition 35 is extremely broad, and could apply to many Internet logins used by sex offenders. Under strict scrutiny, the law must be of the least speech-restrictive means in order to advance the interest of the government. With Proposition 35, the requirements are not narrowly tailored and they restrict the online speech rights that sex offenders are granted under the First Amendment. The state of California will argue that Proposition 35 is not suppressing freedom of expression, but that it is aiding in the fight against sex crimes. Ultimately, the court will have to decide if Proposition 35 is a hidden attempt to prevent Internet speech by a large group of criminals.

Overall, it is unknown if judge Henderson’s injunction will be upheld or if the court will overturn it. It is being heard because an overwhelming majority of voters in California voted to pass the proposition and because sex offenders have a legitimate lawsuit against it.

FBI Gag Orders Ruled Unconstitutional

By TJ Creedon

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March that the gag orders, which accompany the FBI’s national security letters, are unconstitutionally violating people’s rights to free speech. The case brought to court was from an “unnamed telecommunications company” after it received a letter requesting subscriber information. The letter also stated that alerting those subscribers would be a national threat.

The Electric Frontier Foundation, in May 2011, brought the lawsuit against the National Security Letter statutes–18 U.S.C. § 2709 and parts of 18 U.S.C. § 3511. The “Counterintelligence access to telephone toll and transactional records” statutes state that the FBI may subpoena telecommunication records.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston on March 19, 2013, in Northern California, granted the EFF’s request and ruled that the gag orders violate both the First and the Fourth Amendments.

According to the EFF:

“The court held that the gag order provisions of the statute violate the First Amendment and that the review procedures violate separation of powers. Because those provisions were not separable from the rest of the statute, the court declared the entire statute unconstitutional” (“National Security Letters Are Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules,” Electronic Frontier Foundation).

The judge ordered the FBI to stop issuing the letters and stop enforcing the gag orders, because the provisions do not overcome the presumption against prior restraint.

The ALCU and the NYLCU argued that the National Security Letters and the accompanying gag orders violated the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments “by allowing the FBI to obtain private information without any form of judicial review. The plaintiffs further argued that Section 2709’s non-disclosure provision is an unlimited suppression of free speech that indefinitely burdens First Amendment rights,” according to the NYCLU.

2011 brought about a partial lift of the FBI’s gag order on the case, which allowed Nicholas Merrill, of Calyx Internet Access, to reveal himself as ALCU’s main client in this case.

The original National Security Letter statute was passed in 1986, and according to EFF, “the FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of such letters seeking the private telecommunications and financial records of Americans without any prior approval from courts.”

In 2004, a similar case was brought to court by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of another unnamed telecommunication company against John Ashcroft, as the Attorney General (American Civil Liberties Union v. Ashcroft, 2004). The judge in this case, Victor Marrero of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, struck own the National Security Letters section of the Patriot Act.

The rulings in these cases come for many people as a victory for freedom, or at least a step in the right direction.

Sources:

“National Security Letters Are Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules”

https://www.eff.org/press/releases/national-security-letters-are-unconstitutional-federal-judge-rules

“18 USC § 2709 – Counterintelligence access to telephone toll and transactional records”

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2709

“Doe v. Holder (Challenging Patriot Act’s National Security Letter provision and associated gag provision)”

http://www.nyclu.org/node/37

“ACLU & Doe v. Ashcroft – the Good Bits”

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2004/10/aclu-doe-v-ashcroft-good-bits

Chick-Fil-A and the First Amendment

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By Lana Neuman

In the recent past the CEO of Chick-Fil-A Restaurants, Dan Cathy, said he and his company oppose gay marriage. This spurred many angry reactions and most importantly it caused some public officials, specifically those in Boston and Chicago, to say that they would not give permits to Chick-Fil-A and that they didn’t want them opening in their city. The question that was raised was whether this was a violation of Cathy’s First Amendment rights. Was the CEO able to declare a viewpoint without punishment from the government? This is a First Amendment issue not because the government was suppressing what Dan Cathy had to say but because they were using his right to free speech to punish his business.

Right after Dan Cathy made his view publicly known, Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino said he would block any sort of Chick-Fil-A from opening in Boston. Then Chicago followed quickly after. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that the views of Chick-Fil-A and its CEO were not the views of Chicago and that because of this he would not allow any more Chick-Fil-A establishments to open in Chicago. This would be an illegal censorship because it is the government vs. the business. If the public, not the government, decides to boycott Chick-Fil-A because of its views, that would be an entirely different legal matter.

While there have been no cases brought to court, it is clear that should Chick-Fil-A litigate government denial of a business license it would find that the First Amendment would favor them in this instance. In Boston, Mayor Menino has stepped back and realized that he could not move forward with his plans to block Chick-Fil-A from opening because of the First Amendment. The Boston mayor is free to express his unhappiness and an attitude of unwelcomness towards Chick-Fil-A and its CEO but he cannot use the government’s power to stop the opening of more restaurants.

Chapman, Steve. “Chick-fil-A and Free Speech.” Chicago Tribune. N.p., 25 July 2012. Web. 03 Apr. 2013 <http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-07-25/news/chi-chickfila-and-free-speech-20120725_1_chick-fil-a-executives-chick-fil-a-values-speech>.

“Free Speech and Chick-fil-A.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 24 July 2012. Web. 03 Apr. 2013. <http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jul/24/opinion/la-ed-chick-fil-a-20120724>.

Randazza, Marc J. “Chick-fil-A and Free Speech.” CNN. Cable News Network, 31 July 2012. Web. 03 Apr. 2013. <http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/30/opinion/randazza-first-amendment>.

Turner, Greg. “Mayor Menino on Chick-fil-A: Stuff It.” Boston Herald. N.p., 20 July 2012. Web. 03 Apr. 2013. <http://bostonherald.com/business/business_markets/2012/07/mayor_menino_chick_fil_a_stuff_it>.

Zimmerman, Neetzan. “Chicago Joins Boston in Blocking Chick-fil-A Branch Opening.” Gawker. N.p., 25 July 2012. Web. 03 Apr. 2013. <http://gawker.com/5928924/chicago-joins-boston-in-blocking-chick fil a-branch-opening>.

Fox News Facing First Amendment Battle

By Ali Watkins

FoxNews’ Jana Winter is facing an uphill battle that many are saying could have enormous implications for the First Amendment and journalists everywhere.

Winter, a reporter for FOXnews.com, was covering the trial of Aurora, CO shooter James Holmes when she broke an exclusive story on a piece of evidence pertaining to the case- a notebook that Holmes sent to his psychiatrist, FOX News says. Winter refused to reveal her source to authorities, prompting outrage from Holmes’ defense and victory cries from First Amendment champions.

Winter, who was questioned by Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour, has been ordered to appear in court again on April 10th for another round of questioning from Samour, who had issued a gag order on material pertaining to the case. Winter has been threatened with jail time if she does not reveal her source, and could be put on the stand in efforts to compel her to reveal the information.

It’s a monumental, but, unfortunately, all too familiar case for journalists who are balancing the fuzzy lines that define confidentiality privilege. You can almost hear the echoes of the Scooter Libby case, when New York Times reporter Judith Miller (who, ironically, is now a contributor at Fox News) nobly refused to reveal her source as officials searched for those responsible for CIA-agent Valerie Plame’s identity leak. Unless FOX legal counsel can substantially prove that Winters’ testimony bears no weight on the case, the seasoned reporter could be asked to sacrifice her journalistic integrity. If she refuses, she’ll almost certainly face jail time, just as Miller spent 85 days incarcerated for maintaining her sources’ confidentiality.

Despite all the uproar, Colorado has a protective shield law, which was recently amended to offer even more protection for journalists (Read it here). The law states that journalists can be subpoenaed to reveal documents or information only if one of the following three statements applies:

(1)    The information sought from the reporter is “directly relevant to a substantial issue involved in the proceeding,”

(2)    The information “cannot be obtained through any other reasonable means,”

(3)    A strong interest of the party issuing the subpoena outweighs the interests under the First Amendment of the reporter and the public.

Despite the incendiary nature of the case, mainstream media has been oddly mum on Winters’ case, especially considering the implications her plight could have for journalists nationwide. Critics have suggested that the journalistic haze that surrounds the FOX network could be to blame. Miller speculated that if her FOX colleague “worked for mainstream newspapers or CNN, I think the case would have been covered. There’s a certain reluctance because it’s Fox News.”

Stolen Glory

By Gennie DePass

Former President George W. Bush signed into law the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 on December 20, 2006 with the intention of “enhancing protections relating to the reputation and meaning of the Medal of Honor and other military decorations and awards”.  In simpler terms, the act made it illegal to lie about serving in the military and receiving military honors. At a time when many people were out serving their country the act seemed to make sense, however just six years later the legality of the act was tested in the United States Supreme Court case United States v. Alvarez

In the case, Xavier Alvarez was arrested for violating the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 after introducing himself at a meeting by stating that he was “a retired marine of 25 years and retired in 2001”.  He then went on to state that he “was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.”  After cycling through the ninth circuit, certiorari was granted.

After reviewing the case the Supreme Court decided that the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 was a violation of free speech rights and the decision made against Alvarez in the lower court was reversed.

The decision made in United States v. Alvarez was no doubt a win for Alvarez and free speech rights, however it left many Americans with questions.  What about those brave Americans that actually serve in the military and risk their lives to keep others safe?  Is It fair that people can impersonate them after all that they do to keep Americans safe, especially during times of war?

Since the Alvarez ruling, many legislators have searched to find ways to amend the Stolen Valor Act in order to answer the thoughts of questioning American citizens.  Most recently, Congressman Joe Heck introduced theStolen Valor Act of 2013.  Heck’s previous bill was overturned due to similar worries of violating free speech rights.

Undiscouraged from his previous failed attempt Heck stated, “as long as people are willing to benefit from making false claims about receiving our nation’s highest military honors, I will stand up to defend the honor of the soldiers who have earned the awards and the sanctity of the awards themselves.”

Heck’s new bill is much more narrowly tailored then previous bills.  The new bill states that “whoever, with intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit, fraudulently holds oneself our to be a recipient of a decoration or medal shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than one year or both,”making it illegal to lie about being a veteran for ones own personal gains.

Heck is extremely confident about his reforms to the bill, however it has been said that there is only a 15% chance that the bill will actually be passed.

When contemplating this issue it is important to remember that an individual’s free speech rights end where another individual’s begin.  Until a balance can be decided upon between how best to honor the members of the armed forces and protect the free speech rights of the average American there is little that can be done.

Children Keep Their First Amendment Rights in School

By Nicole Soll

In 2010, a fifth grader in Pennsylvania attempted to pass out invitations to a church event in the Poconos to her classmates. Her teacher stopped her, saying she needed permission from the principal, who then said she needed permission from the superintendent. The superintendent refused the request. Backed by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a conservative Christian legal group, the family of the girl, identified as K.A., sued the Pocono Mountain School District for infringing on the her freedom of speech.

The original court ruled in the girl’s favor, so the school district appealed, claiming their decision wasn’t motivated by the fact that the girl’s flyers were religious, but rather due to a policy of the district to not allow civic organizations or special interests groups to hand out materials that promoted their interests over the students. They also cited safety concerns and concern that parents would think the event was school-sanctioned. During the trial, the school district revised the policy to state that students and staff were prohibited from passing out any materials during the school day that did not relate directly to or contributing to school district related activates. They also added another policy which allowed students to pass out invitations to social events with permission from the superintendent.

The case went to Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the panel of three judges upheld the lower court’s decision. The Court’s decision was made largely from the basis of the 1969 case Tinker v. Des Moines (Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503). In this case, students were prohibited from wearing black armbands protesting the Vietnam War because the school district claimed they would disrupt the other students. However, the judge ruled the school could not have known what the students wearing the armbands would have done, and in fact, they had very little impact on the school. This created the Tinker Standard, which allows students to still have freedom of expression in schools so long as it doesn’t disrupt their fellow students.

The 3rd Circuit also pointed out that the school could not restrict a student’s expression of handing out the flyers because it did not cause a “substantial disruption”. The Superintendent had made no effort to see if the church posed a safety threat or if parents would have thought the event was school sanctioned. The court also cited the fact that other outside organizations had sent home flyers with children in the past and children had passed out invitations to birthday parties and that the fact that the invitation came from a church should not have changed the approach the school took to handing out material.

Finally, the judges ruled the policy of the school district in regards to handing out materials was unconstitutional because it relied on the judgment of the superintendent to decide what was appropriate or not and wasn’t specific enough. In a previous Third Circuit Court case, Saxe v. State College Area School District (Saxe v. State College Area School District, 240 F3d 200), the State College Area School District had also had policy restricting unwelcome or offensive speech struck down due to the general nature of the policy. This case lent itself to the decision made in K.A.

The difference between Tinker, Saxe and K.A. is that the latter two dealt with high school students. K.A.’s case raises the issue of how Tinker should apply in younger children, specifically elementary school students. In 2003, the Third Circuit Court ruled on a case, in which they stated “in the elementary school setting, age and context are key”. The case, Walz v. Egg Harbor Township Board of Education, involved a preschooler, Daniel Walz, who handed out pencils with a religious message on them to classmates during a holiday party and later distributed candy canes with a religious story attached (Walz v. Egg Harbor Township Board Of Education. 342 F3d 271).

In this case, the Court said whether or not the expression was appropriate depended on “the type of speech, the age of the locutor and audience, the school’s control over the activity in which the expression occurs, and whether the school solicits individual views from students during the activity”. The Court also decided that younger children in elementary school, specifically those in preschool and kindergarten could had more controlled exercised over their speech and expression because they require more guidance than older children.

However, in Walz, it was decided that Daniel Walz’s mother was the guiding factor behind the pencils therefore Daniel’s freedom of expression had not been intruded upon. It was also ruled that the school district had made it clear that no gifts with religious, commercial or political undertones could be exchanged and the pencils had a clear religious message along with intent to spread that message.

In K.A., the Court reiterates their point that younger children require more guidance and therefore more control, but hesitate applying it directly to the case. Although K.A. was technically still an elementary school student, she was older than Walz and by the Court’s reasoning should have still been allowed more rights than Walz. The Court did maintain that regardless of the age of the child, they saw no reason the “substantial disruption test” from Tinker couldn’t be used in an elementary school setting.

It is clear from K.A. that the issue of freedom of speech and expression for younger students is still being debated. The Third Circuit Court is hesitant to determine at exactly what age school children gain what rights and seem to most likely be waiting for a ruling to be made by the Supreme Court before making any definite judgments for themselves. Instead, cases like K.A. are decided on a case by case basis and in K.A. it was decided that the school district didn’t have enough evidence that the flyers would cause a substantial disruption to stop K.A. from distributing them.

Colleges Still Suppress Students Despite Promoting Free of Speech

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By Matt Regan

In June of 2012, a Traditional Values student group in Ohio was told by police they could not hold up their signs and had to place them face down. This act violated the groups First Amendment rights to express their opinion.

According to this article from WND, the Thomas More Society helped bring about a federal lawsuit against Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. WND also reported that Bryan Kemper, a speaker at the event, had witnessed this all unfold.

“The police walked around the crowd telling people to put their signs down, that they could not hold them in their hands,” said Kemper.

The police’s reasoning for requiring the protesters to put down their signs was because another group complained that the signs had been disruptive. However the school had no policy that did not allow the students to hold up their signs. According to the report filed by the Thomas More Society “it is a fundamental First Amendment law that the content of free speech, no matter how ‘offensive’ it may be to certain onlookers, deserves the very highest degree of legal protection.”

Where and how students protest on college campuses throughout the country has long been the subject of First Amendment challenges. Since the Vietnam War, campus police and their government authorities have attempted to silence protests. A more notable example is the shootings that happened at Kent State. Students protested the expansion of the Vietnam War and unexpectedly faced gunfire by the National Guardsmen. The shooting ended with four dead and nine others wounded.

In Clayton Smith v. Tarrant County College District, the school banned their students from wearing empty holsters on their belts as protest (Case 4:09-cv-00658-Y). The group running the protest, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, was seeking to have state and college authorities, allow students who are licensed, to carry a concealed firearm on campus.

Smith had told the school they would be holding this protest throughout campus and was told he could not pass out pamphlets. They also told him he could not talk outside of the ‘Free speech zone’. He canceled the event.

Later in 2009, the group attempted another protest and the school again turned down Smith and said that their policy had changed. Following, Smith filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on November 3, 2009. In the end the school was found to be denying first amendment rights by designating free speech zones and keeping out areas that are normally considered public forums. However the court found that classrooms are subject to more regulation than other areas.

In the case involving Sinclair Community College, they decided to pay the attorney’s fees and also revise their policy. The new policy would make Sinclair Community a much more free speech friendly area.

Peter Breen, executive director and legal counsel of the Thomas More Society, was quoted by WND saying, “Freedom of expression is an absolutely fundamental value in a democratic, self-governing society and indispensable to the educational process.”

Does Freedom of Speech Apply to Muslim Students?

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By Wafai Dias

Over the past years the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has consistently been reported in the American media. In 2009, Israel invaded Gaza in “Operation Cast Lead,” leaving over 1,400 Palestinians dead (Btselem Dec. 27, 2009.) When students at the University of California Irvine campus found out that the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren was going to give a speech at their University, they planned to protest his speech. On Feb. 8, 2010, 11 students stood up and one by one, at different times they confronted Oren with remarks such as “Michael Oren, propagating murder is not free speech,” and “It is a shame that this University has sponsored a mass murderer like yourself.” All 11 of them were arrested right after they protested and were released after three hours. Out of the 11 students, 10 were found guilty by the Orange County Superior Courthouse of violating:

  • Section 403 of the Penal Code, disrupting an assembly or meeting, a misdemeanor, without authority of law, did willfully and unlawfully disturb and break up a lawful assembly and meeting
  • Section 182(a) (1) of the Penal Code (Conspiracy to commit a crime), a misdemeanor, they unlawfully conspired together to commit the crime of disturbing an assembly and meeting, in violation of section 403 of the penal code.

Three of the students were from UC’s Riverside campus. Dan Stromer, a lead attorney of the defendants stated that this misdemeanor law in California criminalized forms of political speech that are protected in the U.S. constitution(SouthernCalifornia Public Radio, “Irvine 11attorneys file appeal,” Oct. 19, 2011.) In their appeal the defense attorneys’ stated that the students were convicted on the basis of an unconstitutionally vague state law prohibiting the willful disturbance of meetings (Daily Pilot, “Muslim students appeal conviction,” Jan. 23, 2013.) This case also started a debate of whether the students’ or Oren’s free speech rights were violated, and also if the district attorney’s office should have filed criminal charges in the first place. (DailyPilot, “Muslim Students Appeal Conviction,”Jan. 23, 2013.) One of the 10 students, Osama Shabaik, stated that the group wanted to host a University of Chicago style protest (Uprising Radio, Two Irvine 11 Students Share Their Story, Sept. 29, 2011.) Earlier in 2009 when the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke at the University of Chicago over 30 attendees including students and community residents disrupted his speech (ABC 7 News, “Groups Protest Former Israeli PM’s speech,” Oct. 16, 2009.) However, none of these students or community members were arrested or charged with misdemeanors. In the “Irvine 11” case one of the students was dropped from all charges due to the DA’s inability to bring charges against him. He agreed to complete 40 hours of community service and accepted a plea bargain (Orange County Register, “Case Dismissed Against Muslim Student,” Oct. 7, 2011.) Reem Salahi one of the defendant’s lawyers stated, “These types of protests happen all the time. It is actually very rare, completely uncommon for individuals to be prosecuted under Penal Code 403. That’s exactly what happened in this case”(University of Southern California, “Irvine 11 Attorney Reem Salahi Speaks On Implications Of The Case Oct. 5, 2011.) She also stated that she believed that it was more of a case against the content of what they said versus conduct. The Muslim Students Union was suspended after the protest. Since the Irvine 11 included several board members of the organization the prosecutors used a subpoena and gained access to the student’s emails in which they later used as evidence to prosecute the students for conspiracy to disrupt a meeting (Orange County District Attorney Press Release, Sep, 23, 2011.) Since all of the 10 students have clean records the judge sentenced them to three years of informal probation, 56 hours of community service and a $270 fine for each to pay. As of now all of them are no longer on probation and their defense attorney’s have appealed the guilty verdict.

*Photo Credit – Irvine 11 Facebook page  (A supporter of the Irvine 11 wore a “Silenced” shirt, during a rally in support of the Irvine 11.)