Access to Justice?

Leaving aside that Britney Spears may not be totally stable and that this is certainly an exceptional problem, I was slightly horrified watching the video of Britney trying to walk into the courthouse.  I watched it on TMZ , but I gather it was live on CNN as well. Check it on youtube if you want. She gets out of the car, is mobbed, says she is scared, and leaves.

Of course, many more people cannot get into court because they have no money or cannot read and understand their summons. That is surely worth more thought that Britney, but stay with me — doesn’t the state have a responsibility to make sure you can get INTO (as in physically enter if you arrive) the courthouse where there is a hearing to determine if you get to see your children again? Why doesn’t LA think this is a problem? Why doesn’t the judge order cops to escort her?

Yes she brings it on herself by doing things that people want to watch, and yes we contribute to it by watching, but is there a first amendment problem if you limit photographers from in front of the courthouse? Isn’t that a reasonable time, place, or manner restriction to serve a compelling state interest?

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9 Responses to Access to Justice?

  1. qualitativeinterloper says:

    I saw that the police were told no photos on thier cell phones today. This after reports of multiple officers taking shots at her house the night she wouldn’t give up her kids. If they can talk about no photos, can’t they talk about getting her through the door?

    They have to expect a hoard outside the courthouse, Brit’s lawyers especially for crying out loud. Couldn’t they contact the court before hand and plan for an escorted entry, maybe around the back?

    They don’t bring in rock stars to a concert through the front door and up to the stage through everyone else for a reason. They’d never get to the stage.

    Eric

  2. lbsmom says:

    Question: Since this blog is called Controlling Authority, I wonder if the word controlling is an adjective a verb. Do we want the law to control the reporters & photographers who have first amendment rights, ie, authority, entitling them to be there? In that case, I’d say it’s a verb.

    Using the same logic, that the first amendment gives the media the right do their job, you can make the case that on the scene yesterday, the reporters were definitely controlling Britney’s right to enter the courthouse. Sure, she could have big burly folks plow a furrow for her dainty, spiked heels, but that requires a sound mind which Britney appears not to have.

    In either case, it looks like a travesty of the judicial system. Score one for chaos. I wish could come up with a rational solution, but as a mom & grandmother, I can only consider the children. Britney’s fitness to parent must be examined before she is alone with them again.

  3. evetsnamffoh says:

    so who is this britney spears person?

    -steve

  4. laurabethnielsen says:

    Steve: She is the girl married to Tom Cruise.

    Mom: You get my joke! That’s the WHOLE point – is it an adjective or a verb? You tell me. And of course the joke that I should be the controlling authority for all things but since I can’t be I started my own blog.

  5. geoff2o0o says:

    I see no first amendment problem arising from this type of time, place and manner restriction so long as it’s narrowly tailored to serve the particular purpose of allowing summoned persons to physically enter the courthouse. Similarly, the police could restrict an anti-Britney protest group from flooding the entranceway to the courthouse, thus preventing summoned persons from entering.

    That being said, the police cannot indefinitely suspend the First Amendment rights of paparazzi photographers to gather outside the courthouse after summoned persons have entered. This type of speech restriction would not serve the narrow governmental interest of allowing summoned persons to enter the courthouse and would thus be unconstitutional even though the restriction is still content-neutral.

    Because the courthouse steps are part of the traditional public forum, it seems that media-driven chaos is inevitable. However, the government does have the right to control that chaos in ways that serve essential judicial functions like the appearance of summoned persons.

  6. robertlnelson says:

    One wonders what the real politics are concerning the control of the public space around the LA courthouse. Is it under the control of the sheriff’s department or the court itself? Do the authorities in part like the media frenzy, as part of their 15 seconds of fame? Or are they actually constrained by 1st amendment interpretations? Sounds like a research project.

    Might even be a connection to Gould’s work on Campus Hate Speech–but flipped. Certainly authorities could give Spears a safe runway into court, but they say they are constrained. Universities, on the other hand, promote codes that “control,” with the knowledge they never will actually have to defend them in court.

  7. laurabethnielsen says:

    Geoff — you say: That being said, the police cannot indefinitely suspend the First Amendment rights of paparazzi photographers to gather outside the courthouse after summoned persons have entered. This type of speech restriction would not serve the narrow governmental interest of allowing summoned persons to enter the courthouse and would thus be unconstitutional even though the restriction is still content-neutral.

    But surely you are not arguing that we can ensure safe entry but not exit? They could clear them away for her to leave, right?

    But first she would have to show up!

  8. geoff2o0o says:

    Laura Beth — right, safe exit would also seem to be a compelling interest. I just think that the time frame of the speech restriction is important because this type of time, place and manner regulation could easily be enforced in an over broad fashion.

  9. lbsmom says:

    Speaking as a mere citizen imagining circumstances where I wanted/needed to be in court but did not have the ability to plow through the crowd nor the knowledge of how to get help to do so, I just might turn & run!

    Dramatic as it sounds, shouldn’t we all have a cleared path to justice? Not everyone is well versed in our rights as Laura Beth & Bob’s research indicates. At least, with a cleared route, we have the opportunity to become more clear in our perceptions of the law. Personal safety, whether entering or exiting a courthouse, seems like it should be a given.

    It sounds like I’m just playing with words, but the assumptions made about the under served in our society is one of my pet peeves. Is this too far off topic?

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