Hear Ye! Hear Ye! explores a real court case. Read about it below and decide how you would rule. Then read the actual verdict and let us know whether you agree.
Douglas Jones arrived at the city commission meeting in Key West, Fla., ready to say his piece. An involved citizen, he was serving on the City of Key West Civil Service Board in 1985. As a private citizen, he often spoke out at meetings of the city commission.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled in Jones' favor, finding that his First Amendment rights had been violated because he had not been allowed to express himself. He was awarded $31,500 from the city, and the same amount in punitive damages from the mayor.
But in 1989 the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. The court reasoned that the government can regulate expressive conduct as long as that interference is justified without regard to content. "We feel that the mayor certainly had an important interest in confining Jones to the topic at hand and in preventing disruption of the meeting."
If the mayor could not "regulate irrelevant debate and disruptive behavior at a public meeting," the court held, those meetings would "drag on interminably, and deny others the opportunity to voice their opinions." Since the court found that the mayor acted reasonably in regulating the time, place and manner of Jones' speech, the ruling in favor of Jones was overturned.
Robin Gerber is a lawyer and the author of Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World's Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her.