Friday, March 14, 2014

Rosebrock v. Mathis (9th Cir. - March 14, 2014)

Pretty interesting.

There's a federal regulation that prohibits "displaying" anything on VA property.  That (probably) covers everything.  No displays.

Robert Rosebrock put an American flag on the fence that surrounds the VA's property.  The VA was fine with that.  No citations.  We're proud to be American, after all.

But then Rosebrock, upset at various VA policies, occasionally displayed the American flag upside down.

That the VA cared about.  And repeatedly cited him for violating the regulation.

When the flag was top up, no problem.  Top down, prosecution.

That violates the First Amendment.  Content discrimination.

Ultimately the Ninth Circuit holds -- in a split opinion -- that the case is moot because the VA facility sent an e-mail that said it wouldn't do it again.  Despite the fact that this promise doesn't have anything near the status of law, Judge Bybee finds it credible, and holds that the case is moot.  Judge Rawlinson dissents.

I'm not surprised that the VA would be happy with the display of a right-side-up flag and displeased with an upside-down flag.  But I am surprised that it would take 'em eight months to figure out that you can't just cite people when they're engaging in speech you don't like.

But fear not.  It said it won't do it again.