Tag Archives: First Amendment

Average Joe SCOTUS: City of Austin, Texas v. Reagan National Advertising of Texas Inc.

Reagan National Advertising and their co-petitioners Lamar Advantage Outdoor own some billboards and shit. On these billboards, they display commercial and non-commercial messages alike.

In the city of Austin, they have a rule that differentiates whether a sign is permitted based on whether the sign is connected to the property it happens to sit on. Like, let’s say there was a billboard for McDonalds, but it’s on McDonald’s property—that’s AOK. But if there’s just some rando billboard not on McDonald’s property, yet it is advertising McDonald’s, well, it’s a fucking eyesore. Take that shit down—or in this case, if it’s not already up, you can’t put it up.

Reagan had some old style signs they wanted to convert to the new digital signs which can change messages routinely, much easier than the old wallpaper style shit we’re so used to.

Austin’s rule though, was that no new signs could be put up on a property that wasn’t the property of the people advertising on the sign, which these digital signs would violate. Old signs built and put up before the regulation were grandfathered in, though. So that meant this was an odd situation. He wanted to convert the signs, not put up new ones. Although to be fair, the conversion is effectively a new sign.

So Reagan was like, “Woah, you assholes. This violates my first amendment freedom of speech. If the people who own this business want the sign up, and we have a buyer to put messages on the sign, a rule that stifles us just because the buyer doesn’t own the property is some grade A bullshit. If the area is zoned for the sign, and the sign isn’t indecent, it fucking goes up.”

Austin was like, “We’re just trying to prevent our beautiful and weird city from a million fucking signs littering the landscape, and making it look like a shithole.”

But Reagan was like, “We already had these signs up, assholes. We’re just converting them.”

Part of the complaint here is also that, if the ruling is about whether the sign’s message is related to the premises it sits on, means that some overpaid assholes in the Austin courts will effectively have to read every fucking sign application, and become a “Supreme Board of Sign Review” as justice Kagan actually called it in a previous case, “Reed v. Town of Gilbert,” which ruled a town could not make different rules based on the messages temporary signs conveyed.

So the city was like, “You really don’t want to read every fucking sign, do you? Just give us our judgement, and let us have our ruling.”

In opening arguments, counsel for Austin explained their position pretty well.

Michael R. Dreeben

This case involves a fundamental question about the meaning of content-based regulation under the First Amendment.

The Fifth Circuit interpreted this Court’s decision in Reed to mean that any time that an officer must read a sign to apply the law, the law is content-based. That holding is wrong and should be reversed.

A law is content-based on its face when the text of the law singles out specific subject matter for differential treatment.

The law in Reed did that by distinguishing ideological, political, and directional signs. A rule regulating off-premises advertising does not.

The off-premises rule is an empty vessel that applies to all subjects and topics.

It turns on the relationship of a sign to its location, not the content of its message. The Fifth Circuit’s rigid rule does not further First Amendment values.

Austin’s law does not skew the marketplace for speech or suppress any ideas.

But the Fifth Circuit’s rule would have untenable effects.

Many ordinances can be applied only by looking at what a sign says.

Temporary event signs are a perfect example.

Strict scrutiny of such laws is unwarranted. Now Respondent offers a new theory, arguing that any sign code provision tied to the function or purpose of speech is content-based on its face.

But many neutral laws are tied to function.

Sign regulation is inherently functional.

Signs function to present information.

And the regulation of solicitation is based on the function of soliciting. So long as these rules are even-handed, they are facially content-neutral. First Amendment review still applies, but the right standard is intermediate, not strict, scrutiny.

Because the Fifth Circuit applied the wrong standard, its judgment should be reversed. I welcome the Court’s questions.

Once it was Austin’s turn, their lead counsel opened with this rebuttal.

Kannon K. Shanmugam

The City of Austin denied Respondents’ application to convert its existing signs to digital signs, and it did so on the ground that the signs advertised off-premises activities. Under this Court’s decision in Reed, Austin’s distinction between signs advertising on-premises and off-premises activities is content-based. That distinction turns on the subject matter, function, and purpose of the content of the messages on the signs, and it has the effect of prioritizing certain messages from certain speakers and limiting, if not prohibiting, others. The fact that Austin’s regulation does not prohibit speech on an entire subject and that the application of the regulation depends on a factor in addition to the sign’s content does not render it content-neutral.

A district court felt the city of Austin had indeed made a decent argument, as they don’t want to deal with this shit day after day after day, and ruled in their favor. But the 5th circuit was like, “Maybe y’all aren’t familiar with the first amendment, so let us help you. The fact that you’re saying what is on the sign matters, means its content-based, and thus…well…first amendment. Overturned, bitches!”

In a 6:3 apolitical ruling however, SCOTUS sided with Austin. They ruled that they weren’t limiting content in their ruling, which would be a violation of free speech. Instead, this was merely limiting where you could put a fucking sign or not, based on whether what the sign was advertising, was related to the property it was on. Essentially saying a business has a right to put up a sign on their property, but fuck those billboard assholes who want to put signs up everywhere, that shit is hideous.

Justices Thomas, Barrett, and Gorsuch dissented, arguing that this rule from previous case “Reed” is being misinterpreted. At first, it was purely about content. Now you assholes are making it about some new standard that can be fudged about however courts see fit. What the fuck was wrong with “content-based” in a very literal sense? We can’t even…with you assholes.

Hear oral arguments and read about the case at the links below.

https://www.oyez.org/cases/2021/20-1029

Average Joe SCOTUS: Houston Community College System v. Wilson

David Wilson was elected to the board of trustees of the Houston Community College District (HCC) in 2013. After a few years, Wilson found that the other eight members of the board were assholes of the highest order. Specifically, he argued they were taking bribes and shit like that.

Wilson decided to shout that shit from the mountaintops, but that landed his ass in some hot water. You see, a board is composed of nine members who vote. If one member, calls the other eight corrupt mother fuckers, and they take it to a vote, eight people are going to tell Wilson to shut the fuck up. And so they did.

Their feelings were so hurt by Wilson’s accusations, they publicly censured him, and took away his travel privileges.. They even called him “reprehensible.” The nerve of those vindictive little scumbags.

As is usual, this is a court dispute. Wilson was so pissed off by this censure bullshit, he sued in a state court, that his 1st amendment rights had been violated. But the court sided with HCC. Their argument was that a censure is just them calling him a whiny little bitch, but all publicly and shit. It doesn’t violate his first amendment rights. He can still do his job, and say whatever the fuck he wants. They weren’t hurting him at all, and thus he has no reason to be suing them. Seems they were awfully quiet about the $20,000 fine they laid on him, which I think we all agree, could be called “damages.”

But then the 5th circuit was like, “Whoa, hold on a minute you little state court punks. This dude does have cause to sue. So fuck your little piece of shit ruling—you’re a bunch of idiots. Who the fuck even gave you a gavel? They punished the man in a public manner and official capacity, for calling those corrupt fucks out. That qualifies as “cause” in our opinion.”

HCC was like, “Hey, wait a fucking minute. By trying to block the censure, you’re denying us our first amendment rights to call this asshole an asshole.”

So now, we have two people who have diametrically opposed first amendment rights, trying to get SCOTUS to determine who gets to say what and when.

In a unanimous decision, SCOTUS sided with the HCC. Not that they were promoting their corrupt bullshit, but just the censure itself isn’t a violation of Wilson’s free speech. While Wilson can’t be thrown in jail for saying what he said, the courts can censure him if they wanted to.

Average Joe SCOTUS: FNU Tanzin v. Tanvir

A trio of Muslims, Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibhah and Naveed Shinwari, are here in the U.S. legally, but not natural born citizens, so they’re either citizens or green card holders.

The FBI in their campaign on the war on terror, sought to have Tanvir and company inform for them against other Muslims who may be involved in terrorist activities. Tanvir and company told the FBI to go fuck themselves, and as a result, were put on a No-Fly List by the FBI.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) basically prevents government from harassing people based on their religion, unless the government can show that there’s a compelling government interest in doing so, such as preventing a terrorist attack. RFRA also allows people to sue federal agents if they violate those religious freedoms wrongly.

So Tanvir and his merry band of Muslims are suing the federal government officials who put them on the list for doing so, after they refused to rat out their fellow Muslims. But the government is arguing that the RFRA doesn’t allow these guys to sue individual agents, it only says they can seek appropriate relief.

So now SCOTUS must decide if the RFRA allows individual federal agents to be sued under the law.

In a unanimous decision, SCOTUS decided that the FBI assholes were completely out of line, and can be sued for damages by the three Muslim men, paving the way for future suits against other lawless pricks operating in law enforcement.

Average Joe SCOTUS: Carney v. Adams

James Adams is a Delaware resident, and a member of the state’s bar association. He applied for a judicial job, but the job required he be Republican, and Adams is apolitical. This rule is part of Delaware’s effort to make the courts balanced.

Adams, being a lawyer, decided to do what lawyers do best. Sue some people. He argued the provision in the Delaware Constitution that allows such a requirement of political affiliation is some bullshit.

There is precedent in rulings on Elrod v. Burns and Branti v. Finkel which allows policy makers to have partisan rules for hiring other policy makers. But Adams is arguing that judges aren’t policy makers, since they don’t write laws or regulations, they merely interpret them.

A district court sided with Adam’s argument, and the U.S. Court of Appeals agreed, although they argued that Adams lacked standing for some reason.

So now, Carney thinks this is some bullshit, and has challenged the decision for Adams here at SCOTUS.

So now SCOTUS is being asked to determine if this rule violates the first amendment. Many of the justices brought up the point that other parties such as the Libertarian or Green party aren’t represented, yet they might bring even greater balance. But Carney is essentially arguing that his interest is in balance, and not necessarily making sure all parties are represented.

Carney also argued that there were other judicial positions open, that he were qualified for, and that Adams is merely trying to make a name for himself by going after this one he’s not.

Justice Gorsuch questioned:

Neil Gorsuch

The major party provision prohibits Independents from service, serving as judges.

That’s quite a sweeping rule.

As I understand you, you’ve indicated that you’d agree that that violates the Equal Protection Clause as applied to elected positions. But you indicate that it’s somehow very different with respect to appointed positions. And I guess I’m not clear why, given the absence of any historically-rooted tradition along these lines with respect to the major party requirement. I understand your argument that it serves as a backstop for the bare majority rule, which does have historical antecedents, plenty of them, but, near as I can tell, none of those has ever included this backstop before.

This is a novel thing.

And it does prohibit a great percentage of the population from participating in the process.

Justice Kavanaugh went on to ask:

Brett M. Kavanaugh

Why can’t Independents even better serve the goal of a balanced judiciary nonpartisan/bipartisan judiciary?

In a 8:0 decision, SCOTUS decided they didn’t give a fuck about Adams claim, saying it’s none of their fucking business. They said that Adams couldn’t even sue because he wasn’t even ready to become a judge if he won. It’s like he was suing in case he decided to try.

Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants Inc.

Back in 1991, the government passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. It was basically a law preventing spammers from calling you on your cell phone via a machine (robocalls), and racking up costs for the phone’s owner. Obviously, in 1991, people were often paying for minutes of usage, whereas now, most phone plans have unlimited calling. But still, I hate these assholes, so I like the law.

There were exemptions, though. It allowed for emergency calls. And it allowed for calls when you had previously agreed to get them from that party.

In 2015, those assholes in congress added a provision to allow debt collection calls “owed to or guaranteed by the United States” as well. Any calls from the federal government in general are also allowed.

Along come these butt plugs from The American Association of Political Consultants, Inc., who love spamming the hell out of people with their surveys and shit. They claim their 1st amendment right to free speech is being limited by not allowing them to annoy the fuck out of all of us with cell phones wanting to talk to us about politics and shit. They argued that because the law limits calls based on content, allowing the government to make them, while these assholes can’t, versus banning all calls—this makes such a ban a 1A violation of free speech.

At one point, this scumbag also argued:

The government-debt exception confirms that Congress did not view the privacy interests here as compelling. That exception exposes 60 million Americans to unlimited calls to collect more than 4.2 trillion dollars in debt.

Those are the kinds of calls consumers hate the most. If Congress really thought privacy was paramount, it would not have allowed those calls.

While it’s true those are the calls people hate the most, the fact is, those people agreed to incur a debt, and agreed to allow the people who lent them money or services to collect that debt, and then they didn’t fucking pay it. I’ve been there, it’s annoying. But it’s no one’s fault but my own.

Yet these shady fuckhats want to call you and just shoot the breeze about who you plan on voting for and shit. Ain’t nobody got time for that, and I didn’t agree to that shit in advance. They also argue these calls are non-commercial, meaning they’re not trying to sell you anything. So that’s why they think it should be OK.

Both an appeals court and the fourth circuit were highly unimpressed with this bullshit argument. So here were are to determine if it’s a 1A violation or not.

In a 6:3 majority, the right-leaning justices along with Sotomayor agreed that the government-debt exception violates the 1st amendment. That the government doesn’t get to say you can be called if the debt is guaranteed by them, but restrict a private debt collector.

The interesting part, is while the government lost and AAPC won, technically, AAPC still can’t call your ass. Instead, SCOTUS ruled that this “government-backed debt collection” exemption could be struck from the law itself, while leaving the rest of the law in tact. So now, you cannot robocall for any debt collection to your cell phone, whether it’s backed by the government, or a private debt. So AAPC still can’t call your mobile phone, but neither can any other debt collector.

This is basically like when you’re a kid, and you’re mad your older brother can go out, and you can’t. So instead of letting you go out, your parents say your brother can’t either. You didn’t make your own situation better, you just made it worse for others.

Average Joe SCOTUS: Iancu v Brunetti

So this dude Eric Brunetti owns a clothing company called FUCT. Now, we can act like it’s an acronym all we want, but the point is clearly that it’s to be pronounced as “fucked.”

In 2011, an intent-to-use patent was filed for his brand, but the Lanham Act governs such patents, and section 2(a) says:

No trademark by which the goods of the applicant may be distinguished from the goods of others shall be refused registration on the principal register on account of its nature unless it—

(a) Consists of or comprises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute; or a geographical indication which, when used on or in connection with wines or spirits, identifies a place other than the origin of the goods and is first used on or in connection with wines or spirits by the applicant on or after one year after the date on which the WTO Agreement (as defined in section 3501(9) of title 19) enters into force with respect to the United States.

So the attorney processing the request for the patent told the applicants to get fucked. (See what I did there?)

Brunetti appealed, and the appeals court agreed with the finding that it violated 2(a), but decided that such a restriction was a violation of the first amendment which guarantees free speech.

So off we go to SCOTUS, and it was a slam dunk. While Iancu tried to argue that government has a role to play in protecting our fragile little ears, and our fragile little psyches from such dastardly phrases as the word “fuck” or anything that sounds like it, despite the fact that we damn near all say it every day, the justices weren’t having it.

Iancu even busted out the George Carlin argument, about words you can’t say. Classic bit. But to no avail.

All nine justices agreed, it is a restriction on free speech, and Iancu from the Secretary of Commerce office can get FUCT.

Hear oral arguments or read about the case here.

 

Average Joe SCOTUS – The American Legion v. American Humanist Association

Back in 1918, this park made a war memorial with a big-ass cross in it. At the time, it was a private park. In 1961 the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission took over that land and everything on it.

This cross racked up big maintenance costs over time, and the Maryland Commission was paying to maintain it. Some non-Christians at the American Humanist Association (I’m atheist, but they sound like the boringest borings that ever bored, don’t they?) were like, “Separation of Church and state, man! This is bullshit.”

So then the American Legion was like, “Listen you atheist assholes. The cross has been used to honor dead people for years. It is often a Christian symbol, sure. But sometimes, it’s secular. So give us a fucking break. Have you ever seen the World War 1 memorial? Crosses are everywhere!”

But American Humanist wasn’t having that bullshit and took them to court. They cited the old Lemon v Kurtzman decision, which sided with atheists that government couldn’t give money to non-secular schools. They were like, “It’s the same god damn thing!”

So as usual, lower courts couldn’t agree, and these peeps found their asses in the sights of SCOTUS.

SCOTUS wasn’t hearing that shit, though. They somehow argued that the cross can indeed have a secular meaning as the American Legion and sided with them accordingly, 7 to 2. Only Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissented. Ginsburg was like, the cross “is the foremost symbol of the Christian faith…” I’m pretty sure she said, “are you fucking nuts?” But they bleeped it out.

Here’s the deal, this is not government establishing religion, or prohibiting free expression thereof, which is what the constitution actually says, not that there should be a separation of church and state. We’re still arguing over this nonsense because SCOTUS seems to care more about precedent than the constitution’s verbiage. As Scalia once said, “that document is dead.” Meaning it should be interpreted as that shit is written, not what you think they meant. If congress doesn’t like it, amend it.

Again, I’m atheist, but if it isn’t a law establishing religion, or prohibiting the free expression thereof, then it doesn’t violate 1A as it’s written. So amend it, or move on.

Hear oral arguments and/or read about the case here.