Monday, September 18, 2006

Klein v. San Diego County (9th Cir. - Sept. 18, 2006)

Sounds right to me.

I'm generally in favor of free speech. (Mighty big of me, eh?) So I'm hesitant to uphold statutes that limit it. Especially, as here, as regards core First Amendment speech in a public forum.

That said, Judge Pregerson's opinion convinced me that San Diego's ordinance that categorically bans targeted residential picketing within 300 feet of a residence is a constitutional time, place and manner restriction. Or, to put it more accurately, that this statute is not facially unconstitutional.

I admit that I was somewhat disinclined to adopt such a conclusion prior to reading his opinion. Moreover, wholly beyond my initial intuitive reaction, not only did the Supreme Court in Madsen strike down a similar 300 foot residential picketing rule (though that one was an injunction, not a statute, and was directed solely towards anti-abortion protesters), but several other courts have struck down more permissive statutes than San Diego's (for example, the Eighth Circuit struck down a 200 foot residential picketing statute in Kirkeby). So I wasn't the only one who might have initially viewed the San Diego statute with suspicion.

But that's just a testament to how powerfully Judge Pregerson writes. This opinion isn't bombastic, it's not polemic, and it's not distorted or one-sided. It's a very moderate, measured opinion, and that may well be (at least in part) why I found it so persuasive.

In the end, Judge Pregerson persuades me that my initial reaction was probably wrong. And, especially on sensitive constitutional issues such as these, that ain't a particularly easy thing to do.

A great opinion.