Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Federal Judge Orders The City Of York, PA To Pay $48,000 Judgement To The Nationalist Movement

In a case that could serve as a valuable precedent for all groups proposing future public rallies or demonstrations, a Federal judge has ordered the city of York, PA to pay a $48,000 judgement to the Nationalist Movement. Read the full story in the York Dispatch.

In an order dated June 20th, 2007, Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Maryanne Trump Barry awarded the Nationalist Movement $47,918.75 in attorney fees and $729 in court costs in response tpo a lawsuit brought against the city by the Nationalist Movement over its public assembly ordinance. The Nationalist Movement also successfully got part of the ordinance itself overturned earlier this year when U.S. Midle District Court Judge Yvette Kane struck down the parts of the city's ordinance requiring insurance and security deposits.

The Nationalist Movement, identified by the York Dispatch as a white "supremacist" group, challenged the city's request for an application and fees for a rally it was planning in 2002. The city eventually allowed the group to hold the rally for $1, but the Nationalists pursued a court case, arguing that the city's public assembly ordinance violated the U.S. Constitution.

The Nationalist Movement wanted to conduct a protest in honor of a slain police officer and in opposition to the King Holiday, entitled Henry Schaad Day, on the steps of City Hall in York, Pennsylvania, on January 20, 2003. However, the city of York had passed an ordinance shortly beforehand requiring permit fees, insurance bonds, security deposits and indemnification, as well as prohibiting signs and literature and requiring IRS regulation approval, in direct response to earlier and disfavored protests by "white supremacists".

The city commenced its series of notifications, applications and filings months in advance of the proposed January 2003 event, as well as for like events projected in January 2004 and 2005. The Nationlist Movement had objected to the fee as unconstitutional and had supplied information of financial inability to pay it. A $100.00 permit-fee was levied for non-residents and $50.00 for residents. A fee-waiver was required to be requested on a specific form, supplied by the Nationalist Movement, but, despite the request, no form was ever supplied or waiver granted. The ordinance required a "relation-back" for any subsequent information and for the petitioner to provide a list of deficiency in the application process to be corrected, which, despite request, was never supplied.

The Nationalist Movement also objected to ideological favoritism manifested by the city. They claimed that while the city welcomed "pro-diversity" rallies, they were biased against those rallies they deemed "anti-diversity".

Though the Nationalist Movement did not receive the double attorney's fees it asked for, the group's attorney said he hopes the judge's order preserves others' First Amendment rights. "There is a price to violate the First Amendment, and hopefully it will send a message to future violators," said attorney Richard Barrett. A separate, earlier request for attorney fees is still pending in U.S. Middle District Court and is not yet affected by the appeal court's ruling.

The Nationalist Movement has also appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping to get the court to strike down the application fee as well, but Barrett said the court has not yet decided whether to take the case. Click HERE to read their Petition for a Writ of Ceriorari, which, if granted, simply means the Court agrees to hear the case.

Mayor John Brenner declined to comment at press time, saying he has not yet met with the city's attorneys to discuss the decision, nor has he had an opportunity to review the judge's order. City solicitors also could not be reached for comment.

Analysis: Requiring application and security fees or deposits for public rallies or demonstrations is considered an implicit violation of the First Amendment Constitutional right to assemble peacefully for the redress of grievances since, taken to extreme, it could result in that right being restricted by income or abrogated for partisan political purposes. Constitiutional rights are considered applicable to all, regardless of income or ideology, and must be kept that way.

Since this is a Federal court decision, it will carry potent weight as a legal precedent against any other jurisdiction charging these fees. However, the decision certainly does not preclude a jurisdiction from demanding that an activist group provide reasonable physical security to prevent its members from transforming a legal demonstration into a civil disturbance. The right to peaceably assemble must be balanced by the need for a baseline standard of public order.

At present, white nationalist radio host Hal Turner reports that negotiations with the city of Kalamazoo over the proposed August 4th Rally Against Black Gangster Terrorism are proceeding smoothly, with no demands for any "extortionate" fees so far.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

City Pays Supremacists

Daily Record/Sunday News

The City of York paid about $48,000 in attorney's fees to the Nationalist Movement by a court-set deadline, the white supremacist group's founder and attorney, Richard Barrett, said Friday.

A U.S. Third Circuit Court judge gave the city until Oct. 12 to pay the fees, which were awarded to the Nationalists in court in June. The ordered amount was paid, but Barrett claims the city owes interest. The city has not paid about $40,000 more in attorney's fees awarded to the group for work on appeal, he said.

The fees were ordered after the Nationalists challenged the city's permit law and portions of the law were found unconstitutional. Donald Hoyt, assistant solicitor for the city, could not be reached for comment.