Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Thuggery Loses

Over a year ago, in Bible Believers v. Wayne County a divided panel of the Sixth Circuit conferred “a clear heckler’s veto,” as dissenting judge Eric L. Clay put it, on an angry crowd at the 2012 Arab International Festival. The panel majority ruled that the “threat of violence” at the festival on the streets of Dearborn, Michigan “had grown too great to permit [a group of Christian evangelists] to continue proselytizing.”

Today, Judge Clay (a Clinton appointee) authored the majority opinion in an en banc ruling that held that county police violated the constitutional rights of the Christian evangelists when they barred them from continuing to proselytize. The court divided 10-5 on this matter, but it’s noteworthy that on a court that is deeply riven ideologically, the divide did not follow ideological lines: The majority consisted of four Democratic appointees and six Republican appointees (and the partisan composition is an even 5-5 if you recognize Judge Helene White as effectively a Democratic pick). (On the separate question of qualified immunity for the police officers, the court divided 8-7, with the majority holding that the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity.)

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