News | Oregon

Jacksonville Free Speech Case To Be Argued At U.S. Supreme Court

OPB | March 25, 2014 4:12 p.m. | Updated: March 25, 2014 5:47 p.m. | Bend, Oregon

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Portland Attorney Steven Wilker will be arguing his first case before the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday.  He represents seven protesters who claim they were deprived of their constitutional right to speech during a Southern Oregon campaign stop that President George W. Bush made in 2004.

The protesters had assembled outside the president’s hotel in the Southern Oregon town of Jacksonville.  Across the street, was another group of pro-Bush demonstrators.

When a change of plans led the president to have dinner on the hotel patio, the Secret Service ordered state and local police to move the protesters two blocks away.  The pro-Bush crowd, however, got to stay.

Steven Wilker, who’s acting as cooperating attorney to the ACLU of Oregon says that decision was about politics, and not protecting the president.

“What this case is about at its heart is viewpoint discrimination in violation of the first amendment,” Wilker said.

But the justices will be considering other questions.  Namely, did the protesters’ complaint meet the legal standards for that type of discrimination claim.  And did the lower court improperly deny two secret service agents immunity which would have shielded them from those claims.

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