Utah Settles in First Amendment Case

Speaking of police intimidation of people exercising their First Amendment rights, several readers have reminded me of this recent outcome of a similar case:

The state has settled with two local animal rights activists who filed a federal suit claiming a Utah Highway Patrol trooper prevented them from handing out political leaflets during this year’s Utah Legislature.

In its settlement filed Monday, the state has agreed to pay Eric Waters and David Berg, both of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, $1,000 each and their attorney Brian Barnard $10,000 in legal fees. The state has also agreed to pay UARC $500.

Waters and Berg claimed their First Amendment rights were violated when UHP trooper Preston Raban approached them near the House of Representatives building and told them to stop handing out leaflets.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office acknowledged Waters and Berg “have the legal right to engage in the free expression activity of tendering political leaflets, fliers, buttons or similar materials on the grounds and in public areas of the Utah State Capitol and related buildings.”

No matter what I think of most (not all) people in the animal rights movement, any common sense view of the Constitution covers such activities.

Stephen Gordon

I like tasteful cigars, private property, American whiskey, fast cars, hot women, pre-bailout Jeeps, fine dining, worthwhile literature, low taxes, original music, personal privacy and self-defense rights -- but not necessarily in this order.

  1. Sounds like the real winner in this case was the shyster. The plaintiffs get $1000 and he gets $10,000? There’s definitely something wrong there….

  2. I’ve actually wondered if the LP has any position on animal rights. I haven’t really seen one in the party platform. I would hope the position would be something like “Animals are great friends and companions to mankind. And boy, they sure are tasty.”

  3. Common sense views of anything, in particular the Constitution are not in The State’s interests. The Constitution exists so that our masters can point to it on the wall to remind us just how free we really are.

  4. Until libertarians acknowledge that all sentient beings have a right to life, the libertarian philosophy will be incomplete and contradictory. Most libertarians take the Objectivist approach to animal rights – that in order for one to have rights one must be a moral being. By this argument, small children don’t have rights. I think most libertarians are overly anthropocentric and seem to believe that “might makes right” in issues involving dealings with other species of life. Personally, I believe that other sentient beings have just as much right to live on this planet as humans do.

    Libertarians could learn a lot from the Greens when it comes to environmentalism, compassion and sustainability, while Greens could learn a lot from Libertarians when it comes to freedom and individual rights.