Sneaking Suspicions
Archives-- September 19-25, 2004

This page includes posts from September 19-25, 2004 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

September 24, 2004
Blog Break

Much as I enjoy writing for this site, sometimes other parts of my life intrude on the time I otherwise devote to this hobby. 

I need to take a break from blogging for a little while, but I have my reasons. 

I expect to return to blogging some time next week. Thanks very much for your continued patronage. In the meantime, enjoy meandering around here with some of the prior posts you might have missed.

Note: Besides being an accurate description of intended events, this post is also an homage of sorts to Terry Teachout. He is one busy guy, isn’t he?

September 23, 2004
“Free speech” doesn’t mean you can speak that freely.

Some folks have a skewed idea of what the free speech clause of the First Amendment requires. 

Contrary to these people’s opinions, for example, this frequently-litigated phrase does not force government employees to listen patiently to long harangues about personal grievances. Most of these staffers put up with it anyway, but it’s more out of politeness, agency policy, or a sense of moral obligation than anything the law requires. 

The Third Circuit recognized that constitutionally-mandated free speech has at least some boundaries, in a decision issued this week relating to a bitter land-use controversy in Pennsylvania. 

Members of the Eichenlaub family were having problems obtaining approval for some of their development plans from the Township of Indiana Board of Supervisors. It just so happened that the Township’s Board included a “citizen’s forum” as part of their regularly scheduled meetings. During one particularly exciting town meeting, David Eichenlaub was removed from the audience.

Naturally, this led to litigation.

The District Court ruled in favor of the Township on Eichenlaub’s free speech claim about this meeting. Eichenlaub appealed that decision, along with the judge’s rulings on other legal arguments on other issues.

The Third Circuit reversed the lower court on some of these decisions, but had no difficulty upholding the dismissal of this particular claim:

The government’s power to prevent or limit speech on public property is carefully circumscribed by the First Amendment. Not all public property is open to unfettered public speech, for the “First Amendment does not guarantee access to property simply because it is owned or controlled by the government.” [citation omitted].***

There is a … type of public setting that the courts have recognized—a forum created by the government that is limited to certain groups or to discussion of certain topics….

*** Under this… test for reviewing limited forum restrictions, content-based restraints are permitted, so long as they are designed to confine the “forum to the limited and legitimate purposes for which it was created.” [citation omitted].

Two limitations remain. Any restrictions on speech must be viewpoint neutral and must be “‘reasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum.’”[citation omitted].***

[T]he public discussion session of the Township meeting was designed to be limited to matters pertaining to town government. The meeting was not the equivalent of a municipal theater, … or a public park or street. One would certainly not expect the forum of a Township meeting to include such expressive activities as performance art, lectures on medieval history, or arguments about private disputes involving town citizens. ***

The record of the September 14, 1999 meeting discloses that [David Eichenlaub] was repetitive and truculent, and that he repeatedly interrupted the chairman of the meeting. Restricting such behavior is the sort of time, place, and manner regulation that passes muster under the most stringent scrutiny for a public forum. Indeed, for the presiding officer of a public meeting to allow a speaker to try to hijack the proceedings, or to filibuster them, would impinge on the First Amendment rights of other would-be participants. We have no difficulty sustaining the decision to remove David Eichenlaub on that basis.***

[T]he overwhelming, and wholly sufficient, motive to eject David Eichenlaub from the meeting was the perfectly sustainable and content-neutral desire to prevent his badgering, constant interruptions, and disregard for the rules of decorum.

We will affirm summary judgment for the defendants on this claim.

I fully expect that this case will soon be cited by dozens of government attorneys.

One just doesn’t often see this kind of blunt affirmation that there are limits to acceptable public behavior. It’s well worth appreciating.

September 22, 2004
A quick note on the advancement of the English language

My younger brother lives and works in New Jersey, and shares my interest in the creative uses of English.

Last weekend he told me that there's now a new word used in his state as a short-hand description for sexual harassment complaints against state officials--a McGreevance.


September 21, 2004
Race Week

It’s race week in Dover, as thousands of fans converge on the state capital for three days of Craftsman Trucks, the Busch Series, and the big Nextel Cup event.

Hundreds of camping trailers have been here for well over ten days, set up in the raceway parking fields. They’ll soon be joined by hundreds more, as over 140,000 fans are expected to fill the stands for the Sunday event.

The race cars and their crews began making appearances all over the southern half of the state as early as today. Here’s a picture I took during lunch hour. It shows a young mother and a very excited child posing for a photograph in front of a Busch Series car while it was parked at a busy convenience store:


By the way, if anyone still tries to tell you that NASCAR is something only white people enjoy, send them here.

September 20, 2004
Happy anniversary, Professor Froomkin!

During my morning routine at home, I usually check the website statistics for Sneaking Suspicions, including a look at the top 30 or so referrers.

Yesterday a startling number of visitors came here to read the Marshmallow Farming post of just over a year ago. All of these folks came from a single source—Michael Froomkin, the distinguished law professor at the U. of Miami. 

The link was part of Froomkin’s post reflecting on the passage of his first full year of blogging.

Another portion of Froomkin’s post bears repeating. I think it perfectly expresses the reason why many bloggers continue to write and publish their essays on the Web, regardless of political viewpoint:

[O]ne reason I’ve kept on doing this is that I don’t want to look back in twenty years and discover that during the crunch time I was the modern equivalent of a ‘good German’—busy with the demands of family and career while ‘the great experiment,’ the USA, went down the tubes around me. Even bearing witness against these trends serves, I hope, in some small way to begin to roll them back.

Happy anniversary, Professor! And thanks for the unexpected and welcome boost in traffic!

September 19, 2004
Bobby Quillen

In Delaware and in every other state there are a few different kinds of state legislators.  

For example, for some the most dangerous place to be is between them and a microphone. Others are notoriously quiet, to the point where you wonder how they keep winning re-election. 

Still others are not the loudest in the bunch, but are routinely recognized as effective, responsive leaders of their part of the state community.

Bobby Quillen, who died yesterday after a painful bout with liver cancer, was one of those in that last category.

He made a point to know who to call in the various state agencies to try to help out a constituent. Unfailingly polite, he would take the time to hear the agency’s side of the story, and often suggest a helpful path toward a resolution. That was the consistent pattern for my dealings with him from 1988 to his retirement from the Delaware House this past session.

Celia Cohen has a nice post about Quillen on her site, and I recommend it.


Contact Information:

Fritz Schranck
P.O. Box 88
Nassau, DE  19969


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Official small print disclaimer: This is, after all, a personal web site. Any opinions or comments I express here are my own, and don't necessarily reflect the official position of my work as a government attorney or any of my clients.

That fact may become obvious later on, but it needs to be said here anyway.

© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2004