Jun 17, 2014

Impediment to Free Speech

The US Constitution’s first amendment was established in 1791 to, in part, protect the freedom to speak one’s opinions. The Supreme Court of the United States further declared that one could not be convicted based solely on the content of his speech (Cohen v. California, 1971) and has written that free speech is "the matrix, the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom." More directly to the point I want to make obvious today is the decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio, 1969 that stated speech could be limited only if it is intended and likely to produce an imminent lawless action.

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Last week I was required to appear in court; the technical charge was a violation of an order of protection. Sounds serious, huh? It’s because I mailed (yes, postal mail) my two youngest children Valentine’s Day cards with stickers inside as a gift. Yes...I’m serious. If there is more to this charge I was not informed by either the Judge or my attorney. The enacting of the order of protection was based on statements I believe to qualify as perjury...but that is another article in itself. Furthermore, I mailed the “offensive” gifts in February and charges were not brought to the local police until late April of this year. I guess that could be an indication of how seriously this violation was perceived by the opposing party.

What does this have to do with the First Amendment you ask? Well, at some point in the proceedings it was brought up that I had previously posted something on the social media site Facebook that was offensive to the opposing party ( I would repost here, but I fear further judicial repercussions at the moment). The post mentioned no names directly and there was no direct or implied threat. The opposing party in this suit, inferred that the Facebook posting was for them. It wasn’t, but since no names were directly stated...I'll let that one slide. The opposing party then went on to misrepresent the post as a threat to themselves. No threat was made, no names mentioned. No lawless act was intended. The Judge in my case (Judge Canas), in response to these unproven allegations, has ordered me to close all social media accounts. In my very strong, and researched opinion, he has impeded my freedom of speech.

I’m not a wealthy man with the means to fight this abuse of power so I will comply with the court’s ruling. My priorities in this suit are more personal that this grievance but I can't sit by and let this abuse go unnoticed. I will be closing all my personal social media accounts, as instructed, and posting this notice to as many public sites as I can. The Judge is an elected official; I would like the body of citizens he represents to be aware of his conduct. My preference is that he wouldn’t be re-elected, but even President Obama pulled that off.

You probably don’t care if my Facebook account gets closed. Honestly, I really don’t either. What I do care about is that a County Court Judge feels he has the power to limit free speech with the swipe of a pen and there wasn't a single gasp in the courtroom as he quickly undermined the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Everyone I've spoken with just shrugs their shoulders and says something similar to “that’s how things are”. Maybe so...but why? I believe it’s because ordinary people endure these injustices each day and never say a word. Well, here is my 0.02¢. Agree or disagree; just be appreciative that you still have the God given right to do so.

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