Town Wants Mural Torn Down Because it Shows ... Donuts
Town officials in Conway, New Hampshire, are trying to force a local ...
Town officials in Conway, New Hampshire, are trying to force a local bakery to paint over a mural made by local school students.
In June, students from Kennett High School painted ...a colorful mural above the front door of Leavitt’s Country Bakery on White Mountain Highway. The mural features a New England mountain landscape made entirely of baked goods, such as donuts, scones and muffins. Leavitt’s owner Sean Young said at the time, he thought the mural “would be a fun project for kids and good for the community.”
But no good deed goes unpunished. Two months later, town officials decided that they would treat the students’ mural as a “sign” subject to strict size and location restrictions. Why? Simply because the mural’s mountainscape depicts baked goods like those sold at the bakery. Thus, officials believe the sign should be treated as an advertisement.
But Conway’s treatment of Leavitt’s mural as a “sign” is discriminatory and contrary to the First Amendment. The Institute for Justice is helping the bakery fight back.
In 2019, ...the city created the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) Program, which places unique burdens on anyone building in certain zones throughout the city. In so doing, the city’s attempt to make housing more affordable has done just the opposite: it has made it more expensive to build affordable housing.
The city was warned that this would happen. The city-commissioned report on MHA’s “economic feasibility” acknowledged that its burdensome costs would stall new housing construction in the bottom third of the housing market. Nevertheless, the city put MHA into effect—trumpeting it as a “grand bargain” with “major players,” including large developers. But for ordinary Seattleites, MHA is no bargain.
Longtime Central District homeowner Anita Adams knows this firsthand. Anita wants to build a modest addition to house her two adult children. But before she can get a building permit, the city demands that she either build additional “affordable” housing units or pay nearly $77,000 into the MHA program. Those fees make Anita’s plans impossible—and leave the city with fewer affordable housing units.
Anita is not alone. Across the city, anyone wishing to construct a home must face incomprehensibly high fees or burdensome and intrusive new housing mandates levied in the name of “affordable housing.” And yet, the laws of basic economics (and common sense) dictate that these costs result in higher rents and fewer housing options.
Fortunately for Anita, the Constitution dictates that governments cannot use the permitting process as an opportunity to coerce money from property owners, and certainly not at the expense of the city’s middle- and low-income residents. Anita has partnered with the Institute for Justice to challenge Seattle’s counterproductive and unconstitutional MHA program and clear the way for homeowners to develop their own land without paying exorbitant fees.[+] Show More
Citizen Journalist Arrested and Prosecuted for His Reporting
Justin Pulliam was standing still when a Fort Bend County deputy ...
Justin Pulliam was standing still when a Fort Bend County deputy walked up and arrested him for interfering with the police in December 2021. While Justin had permission from the ...property owner to record a mental health call and was far from the active scene, the deputy cuffed him and put him in a squad car. Justin was forced to undergo a strip search and spent several hours in jail, during which the Sheriff personally called Justin in for a meeting and became angry when Justin refused to speak to him without a lawyer present.
This was not the first time that Justin had problems with the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office. In July 2021, Justin was excluded from a press conference at Sheriff Eric Fagan’s explicit direction. The First Amendment prohibits government officials from unreasonably restricting an individual’s right to record the police, and it doesn’t let them decide who is or isn’t a journalist. Today, Justin filed a federal lawsuit against the Sheriff and his deputies with the Institute for Justice (IJ), a non-profit public interest law firm that defends free speech nationwide.
“Arresting and prosecuting Justin is a violation of his First Amendment rights, and it can’t stand,” said IJ Attorney Tori Clark. “The Sheriff may not like Justin’s style, but the government doesn’t have the power to single out journalists because they don’t like their viewpoint.”
Justin believes that local government has the greatest impact on our daily lives and that our freedom depends on its transparency and accountability. He reports on everything from city council meetings to vehicle accidents—events that traditional media outlets typically do not cover. His videos are uploaded onto his YouTube channels, such as Corruption Report, and other social-media sites.
“Sheriff Fagan is unfairly discriminating against me because I sometimes criticize the police and other government officials,” said Justin. “It’s outrageous that I was harassed, arrested and prosecuted for exercising our constitutionally protected rights to film and report about activities by public officials from a different perspective. Filming the police makes communities safer and increases accountability.”
Journalism and political commentary like Justin’s are at the heart of the First Amendment. Justin gathers information about, broadcasts, and reports on government officials’ public activities. Independent journalists like Justin are increasingly stepping into gaps left by traditional media outlets in recent years.
The lawsuit seeks to protect Justin’s First Amendment rights in two ways. First, the public is allowed to record police subject only to reasonable restrictions. Again, Justin was far from interfering with police activities. Second, government officials cannot treat independent journalists differently from members of the established media or other members of the public. The deputy who arrested Justin singled him out from others on the scene just because Justin was recording. And the Sheriff excluded Justin from the press conference, which occurred at a public park, while choosing to answer questions from other news crews on site.
“Filming the police and other officials conducting public business is good for everyone,” said IJ Senior Attorney Jeff Rowes. “It protects the public from police abuse, and it protects the police from false accusations of wrongdoing. We want to protect the rights of Justin and every other American to document government officials.”
Mario ...and his girlfriend, Gracie, had just gotten off work for the day. They weren’t doing anything suspicious, and Mario was following the traffic laws. He turned on his left turn signal as he stopped at a red light. A police vehicle stopped behind him. When the light turned green, Mario turned. The police vehicle followed and immediately pulled Mario over.
Mario was confused about why the police had pulled him over. Were they looking for someone else and mistook him for that person? No. The officers were simply fishing for crimes.
Over the next 20 minutes, two police officers searched Mario and interrogated him and his girlfriend—not just about where they live and work, but also about a litany of drugs, past interactions with police, and their feelings about the U.S. Constitution. All without a single reason to believe Mario or Gracie were dangerous or involved in drugs or that either committed any crime whatsoever. They weren’t; they aren’t; and they hadn’t. When Mario and Gracie asked why they had been pulled over, the officers answered that Mario failed to use his turn signal. But multiple recordings of the incident clearly show that Mario used his blinker. When asked why they were questioning Mario and Gracie about drugs, the officers’ answer was they were “just curious.”
The Constitution protects against this stop-first-justify-later form of policing. Police can’t just detain you to ask you questions, regardless of how curious they might be. That is why Mario and Gracie have sued the police officers and the city of Alexandria—to enforce the constitutional boundaries that are supposed to protect motorists from bogus traffic stops that that turn into free-for-all fishing expeditions for crimes.[+] Show More
WATCH: Rogue Judge Leads Warrantless Search Party Through Man's Home
Man fights to uphold court ruling that judges aren't above the law. ...
Man fights to uphold court ruling that judges aren't above the law.
Judges are not entitled to do whatever they want, and then demand special treatment just because they happen to ...wear a robe at work. But that’s exactly what happened in Raleigh County, West Virginia.
During divorce proceedings between Matthew Gibson and his ex-wife, Raleigh County family-court judge Louise Goldston personally forced her way into Matthew’s home to search for items that were in dispute. Goldston—accompanied by Matthew’s ex-wife and the ex-wife’s attorney, among others—walked barefoot through the house, ordering Matthew’s ex-wife to seize DVDs, yearbooks, and pictures off the wall. Some of the items didn’t even belong to Matthew’s ex-wife. And when Matthew tried to record the encounter, the judge threatened him with arrest. Goldston was ultimately censured and fined, and roundly condemned, by the West Virginia high court for violating the state’s code of judicial conduct.
When Matthew sued for these egregious violations of his privacy and free-speech rights, Goldston argued that she was not liable—even if she had violated the Constitution—by invoking a court-made doctrine called judicial immunity. Judicial immunity, as the name suggests, shields judges from liability only for things they do in their roles as judges. Goldston argued that she was entitled to judicial immunity’s special protections for leading a search party through Matthew’s home.
But judicial immunity is reserved for judicial actions, and searching someone’s home is not a judicial act. Just like police officers cannot act like judges, judges cannot act like police officers. The trial court correctly recognized this principle and denied Goldston judicial immunity for her actions. Nonetheless, Goldston is now appealing that decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On appeal, Matthew is teaming up with the Institute for Justice to protect important constitutional guarantees by holding judges accountable.[+] Show More
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