For Release, March 2, 2011
CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office, (786) 363-2737 or email@example.com
Daytona Beach – The ACLU of Florida today filed a legal challenge to an Administrative Order entered by Chief Judge Belvin Perry, Jr. of the Ninth Judicial Circuit. The Order bans protected speech on the Orange County and Osceola County Courthouse complexes. The ACLU’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari asks the Fifth District Court of Appeal of Florida to review and overturn the Order.
The ACLU of Florida filed the Petition on behalf of the Fully Informed Jury Association (“FIJA”) and one of its supporters and volunteers, James Cox, who, until Judge Perry’s order, regularly spoke about jurors’ rights and distributed leaflets and other related educational materials at the Orange County Courthouse complex. Mr. Cox’s expressive conduct, and the FIJA materials he offered to members of the public focused primarily on jury nullification, sometimes referred to as “jury pardons.”
Cooperating attorney Lawrence G. Walters, of Walters Law Group, and ACLU of Florida lawyers Randall Marshall and Maria Kayanan are asking the Fifth District Court of Appeal to vacate the January 31, 2011 order that bans the distribution of materials, oral protest, education, or counseling “intended to influence summoned jurors on any matter” which is, or may be pending before that individual as a juror. Penalties for violating the order include contempt of court citations, fines, confinement, or a combination.
“The government cannot place preemptive restrictions on free speech just because it doesn’t like what is being said,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “Educating the public and jurors is not obstructing justice.”
In the Petition, the ACLU of Florida argues that the ban violates the United States and Florida Constitutions, by censoring political speech and expressive conduct based solely on its content, with no compelling state interest, and imposes a prior restraint on that protected speech.
“While a judge has the right to control his or her courtroom, that right must give way to the First Amendment right of a citizen to exercise free speech on the courthouse steps. The Order issued by Judge Perry crosses the constitutional line, and is so broad, it even prohibits lawyers from arguing their case to a jury,” said Walters. “We must protect even unpopular and controversial speech to give First Amendment rights ample breathing space they need to survive.”
FIJA is a nonpartisan public policy research and education organization established in Montana in 1989. FIJA describes its mission as educating Americans about their rights and responsibilities when serving as jurors, including their powers of “jury nullification” or “jury pardon” by which, according to FIJA, jurors are encouraged to “vote their conscience” on a case.
“Jury pardons are deeply rooted in American jurisprudence, even if they may be disfavored by judges,” Simon said. “No matter how unpopular or controversial a specific idea is, educating potential jurors about legal theory is not a crime. It’s protected speech.”
FIJA supporters have refrained from speaking about their issues or distributing their literature at the courthouse since Judge Perry’s order was issued. “The judge’s order was clearly intended to single out constitutionally-protected expression which he disagreed with – namely, ours,” stated FIJA Executive Director Iloilo Marguerite Jones. “As an organization dedicated to protecting the rights of American citizens, FIJA is pleased to have the ACLU defending our rights in the courtroom.”
A .PDF copy of the petition filed today is available here:
A .PDF copy of the Appendix to the petition is available here:
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About the ACLU of Florida
The ACLU of Florida is freedom’s watchdog, working daily in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend individual rights and personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For additional information, visit our web site at: www.aclufl.org.
For more information about the Fully Informed Jury Association, visit www.fija.org.
This morning Mark Schmidter and I took a drive out to the Seminole, Criminal Justice Center at: 101 Bush Boulevard Sanford, FL 32773.
It was a beautiful day, clear blue sky, the sun was shining with a cool breeze.
There were plenty of people heading into the courthouse, so we got our brochures together and started handing them out to everyone going in and out of the courthouse.
At least 90% of the people going into the courthouse took the brochures from us, and they looked happy when they received the Your Jury Rights: True or False brochure.
Between us we passed out approximately 400 brochures at the courthouse.
Later I headed into downtown Orlando to hand out brochures at Wall Street and Orange. There’s a lot of people here, especially at lunch time. At this location I handed out approximately 200 brochures.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011 – Orlando, Florida.
Today FIJA Stepped up its outreach in Orlando, Florida. State coordinator James Cox, along with FIJA activists Scott Olver and John Kurtz, handed out the FIJA brochure True or False on the sidewalks to the people of Orlando.
Cox was interviewed by Central Florida News 13 at Wall Street and Orange in downtown Orlando. Here is what Cox had to say about FIJA and the actions that it is now taking against chief judge Belvin Perry and his unconstitutional administrative order which has killed the freedom of speech at the Orange county courthouse.
Later a brief interview was conducted by Cox with fellow activists Scott Olver and John Kurtz or Orlando.
The Fully Informed Jury Association made national news last night on Judge Napolitano’s Freedom Watch.
Judge Napolitano said “Florida state judge Belvin Perry, recently signed an order banning free speech outside a Florida courthouses. The order is aimed at the non-profit called The Fully Informed Jury Association, which seeks to encourage jurors to vote their consciences. That organization handed out pamphlets to sitting and potential jurors as they entered courthouses, and judge Perry has blocked this practice. But its irrelevant what the pamphlets say. In America we have the natural and constitutional right to free speech, where on earth does this judge presume to get the authority, to stop anyone from saying anything outside a public courthouse? Has he ever heard of the First Amendment?”
Judge Napolitano is absolutely correct. This is a violation of freedom of speech, and judge Belvin Perry is violating the First Amendment.
Monday, February 14, 2011 – Orlando, Florida.
At 7:30PM, FIJA activist Mark Schmidter and state coordinator James Cox spoke to a crowd of approximately 30 people at the Perkins restaurant in Orlando, Florida.
Schmidter and Cox explained to the group about their activism, and how they have been educating people in Florida of their rights when they serve on a jury.
Schmidter & Cox informed the group about the unconstitutional administrative order issued by chief Judge Perry on January 31, 2011 and passed out information to the group in regards to this.
The Tea Party group was encouraged to get involved with this matter as it is clearly a violation of freedom of speech.
FIJA State coordinator James Cox and fellow activist Mark Schmidter, spoke about the unconstitutional administrative order that Chief Judge Belvin Perry, Jr made January 31, 2011.
Cox explained to the NORML group that, part of their cause is to talk to people on the streets, sidewalks and public places. These places are traditional public forums for freedom of speech. Judge Perry has violated the First Amendment and his oath to uphold the Constitution. Cox went on to say “My fear is that this will not stop here, this judge by making the order has silenced FIJA, who will be next?”
On Monday, January 31, 2011, in Orlando, Florida, Chief Judge Belvin Perry, Jr. made an administrative order shutting down the freedom of speech at the Orange County courthouse. The order basically says that you cannot assert your First Amendment right to inform people about their rights when they serve on a jury. What the judge is doing here is stopping individuals from being educated on their rights not only to judge the facts of the case but the law itself. This is being done out of pure disrespect of the idea of government “of, by, and for the people”.
The people have the right to be educated on their rights when they serve on a jury. This judge is denying them of their rights, because the justice system has become corrupt.
This judge swore an oath to support, protect, and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States and of the State of Florida. By making this administrative order he has broken his oath.
“The Public Forum.–In 1895 while he was a member of the highest court of Massachusetts, Justice Holmes rejected a contention that public property was by right open to the public as a place where the right of speech could be recognized, a rejection endorsed in its rationale on review by the United States Supreme Court. This point of view was rejected by the Court in Hague v. CIO, where Justice Roberts wrote: ”Wherever the title of streets and parks may rest, they have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions. Such use of the streets and public places has from ancient times, been a part of the privileges, immunities, rights, and liberties of citizens.” While this opinion was not itself joined by a majority of the Justices, the view was subsequently endorsed by the Court in several opinions.” ~ Cornell University Law School, FIRST AMENDMENT RELIGION AND EXPRESSION FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION—SPEECH AND PRESS
The sidewalks, streets, parks and public areas are all traditional forums, the government cannot deny the public access to a traditional public forum nor can it regulate use of the forum based on the content of one’s speech. Perry Education Ass’n v. Perry Local Educators’ Ass’n, 460 U.S. 37, 45 (1983).
Are the courthouse and its grounds a PUBLIC PLACE? The courthouse is a public place; therefore, one would say that it is in fact a traditional public forum. It is just like the sidewalks, streets, parks and other public areas. The judge does not have the authority to squelch our First Amendment right to freedom of speech at a traditional public forum.
I also ask: Who pays for the courthouse, the grounds and the people that work in it? The very people that this judge is now silencing.
This order is not only a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but also a violation of Article 1, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution restricts what the government can do to its citizens when it comes to freedom of speech. Judge Belvin Perry, Jr. is discriminating on the basis of content or viewpoint in according access to the courthouse grounds.
In this administrative order, the judge, in order to prove that is administrative order for expressive conduct towards summoned jurors is justified, cites Nobles v. State, 769 So. 2d 1063 (Fla. 1st DCA 2000). This case has nothing to do with freedom of speech and passing out brochures on jury nullification on the courthouse grounds to the general public. This case is about a defendant allegedly approaching a prospective jury and asking them to find him not guilty.
“Based on these facts, the state charged the defendant with jury tampering in violation of section 918.12, Florida Statutes. When this charge proceeded to trial, Sherri Jones was the principal witness for the state. Jones gave an account of her conversation with the defendant in the convenience store, and testified that she felt as though the defendant was threatening her.
At the close of the state’s case, the defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal on the ground that the evidence of his encounter with Sherri Jones was insufficient to support a conviction for jury tampering. He argued that he could not be convicted of threatening a juror, because Jones never served as a juror in his case. This argument was rejected. The trial court concluded that the crime of jury tampering can be proven by evidence that a defendant attempted to influence a prospective juror. Defense witnesses contested Sherri Jones’ version of her encounter with the defendant in the convenience store, but the jury found the defendant guy as charged. Following his sentencing, the defendant filed a timely notice of appeal to this court. ~ Google Scholar, Nobles v. State, 769 So. 2d 1063 – Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2000
I would also like to point out that Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., has not or does not understand what part nullification has played for black people in history. If he did, then he would understand that had it not been for nullification he may not be serving as a judge today.
The Fugitive Slave Law
Until the middle of the 1800s, federal and state judges often instructed the juries they had the right to disregard the court’s view of the law. (Barkan, citing 52 Harvard Law Review, 682-616) Then northern jurors refused to convict abolitionists who had violated the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law. In response judges began questioning jurors to find out if they were prejudiced against the government, dismissing any who were. In 1852 Lysander Spooner, a Massachusetts lawyer and champion of individual liberties, complained “that courts have repeatedly questioned jurors to ascertain whether they were prejudiced against the government. . . . The reason of this . . . was that ‘the Fugitive Slave Law, so called’ was so obnoxious to a large portion of the people, as to render a conviction under it hopeless, if the jurors were taken indiscriminately from among the people.” Modern treatments of abolitionism praise these jury nullification verdicts for helping the anti-slavery cause – rather than condemn them for undermining the rule of law and the uniformity of justice.” ~ International Society for Individual Liberty, A HISTORY OF JURY NULLIFICATION
Again, this order shows the corruption of the court system. It is obvious that this judge does not want the people who will one day serve on a jury to know, that they have a right to vote with their consciences of their own and judge not only the facts of the case, but the law itself.
“Liberty exists only among reasoning people who are tolerant of human diversity. Tyranny thrives on intolerance. Conscientious jurors defend liberty when they refuse to convict fellow citizens maliciously accused of crimes. Reasoning jurors stopped the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and freed tax protesters after the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. Juries refused to convict under the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, during Prohibition 1920-30, Vietnam War objectors, tax protesters, medical marijuana users, peaceful gun owners, and others.” ~ FIJA Brochure, Who Owns Your Body?
The last peaceful defense of our liberties is the jury. Please donate to FIJA to help fight against this corruption. Help FIJA restore Liberty & Justice for All!
We of FIJA seek to obey the law.
A contradiction or ambiguity in the law is evident. Americans seeking to lawfully exercise their lawful rights are subject to being arrested, thus damaged, by Chief Judge Belvin Perry, Jr.’s action.
www.FIJA.org 3 February, 2011
The weather in Tampa, Florida started off damp and windy, but later on in the day the sun came out and it was quite pleasant.
As usual I started off at the Federal courthouse passing out brochures to people passing by, and going in and out of the courthouse.
After an hour I headed up to the county courthouse, where there are a lot more people to educate an hand brochures to.
Today the main brochure that I was passing out was the one entitled, ‘Who Owns Your Body?’ brochure. The FIJA Who Owns Your Body? brochure is my favorite. The content is neutral, and regardless of the peoples’ beliefs, it explains that our rights have been turned into permissions granted or denied by government. The brochure explains that the government assumes that it owns our bodies by telling us what we can consume, and what we may possess.
Government has made so many inferior laws, and these laws contradict the Constitution and common law. When you serve on a jury, you have a right to vote with your conscience, and refuse to convict if you think that the defendant is being tried under a bad law. It only takes one person to vote not guilty and hang the jury. If enough people start doing this, it will send a message to the prosecutors, judges and legislators, telling them that that particular law is not supported by the community.
As always I took an early lunch and then afterwards headed off into Lykes Gaslike Park to catch people on their lunch break.
As soon as the park went quiet, I headed back to the courthouse handing out brochures to people on the way.
With all these people outside I took the opportunity to pass out brochures to them. Some of the people were frustrated, because they had taken time off work to deal with their court business and did not know if their case was going to be heard that day.
I had a great day today, I handed out approximately 600 brochures.
I returned to Tampa, Florida to do outreach, first at the Federal courthouse and then on to the county courthouse.
The weather was still cold, but the sun did manage to shine through the overcast sky.
I was joined by three new FIJA activists, Jessica, Loring and Michelle all from the Tampa bay area.
The Federal courthouse was dead, so after about forty minutes we left and headed up to Hillsborough county courthouse. Here as always there are a lot of people.
We took an early lunch and headed back into town. After lunch we headed into the city center to Lykes Gaslike Park, ready for all the people getting out of work for their lunch.
Approximately around one o’clock we headed back to the county courthouse to carry on distributing Jury Nullification brochures.
Today was another good day we distributed approximately 1,050 brochures.