Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Residential Picketing and True Threats

As this report indicates, North Carolina authorities have charged an abortion protester with violating a new state law against targeted residential picketing. The Supreme Court upheld a residential picketing ordinance that prohibited the targeting picketing of a residence.  In this case, the protesters distributed "Wanted" posters in the neighborhoods of abortion providers.  The state has characterized this as stalking and threatening conduct.  In the "Nuremberg Files" case, the Ninth Circuit upheld a civil verdict against abortion protesters for posting similar posters to the Web.  In that case, the appearance of "Wanted" posters had been followed by the murders of abortion providers.  The Ninth Circuit held that the posters constituted "true threats," which are unprotected speech.  It will be interesting to see whether the North Carolina targeted picketing statute, as applied to the abortion protesters, withstands scrutiny under the First Amendment.    

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