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Friday, July 08, 2022

What is the right time and place?

A group of protesters congregated outside of a Morton's Steakhouse in D.C. where Justice Kavanaugh was eating dinner, causing him to leave through the rear of the restaurant. Morton's issue the following:

Honorable Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh and all of our other patrons at the restaurant were unduly harassed by unruly protestors while eating dinner at our Morton’s restaurant. Politics, regardless of your side or views, should not trample the freedom at play of the right to congregate and eat dinner. There is a time and place for everything. Disturbing the dinner of all of our customers was an act of selfishness and void of decency.

First, I just checked the Constitution and the right to peaceably assemble is followed by "petition their government for redress of grievances," not to "eat dinner." Maybe dinner is well-grounded in tradition and history as an unenumerated right, although the move of "dinner" to early evening was more of an early-19th-century development.

Second, other than chanting and making, the statement does not say how the protesters were "unruly" or "unduly harass[ing]."* The Politico story says protesters called the restaurant and urged the manager to kick Kavanaugh out. But that would have bothered the restaurant manager, not Kavanaugh or another diner. It does not appear the protesters entered the restaurant or went anywhere they were not legally entitled to be.

[*] And would it be ok if the protesters had "duly harassed" Kavanaugh and customers? Does Morton's believe there is some appropriate and permissible level of harassment? Good to know.

Third, what is the "time and place for" protesting public officials? (Or to paraphrase Hillel--if not now, when; if not here, where?). The home is off-limits; non-official public outings are off-limits; the front of the Court was declared (by the Court) not to be a public forum; and there is fencing around the Court's grounds, denying anyone close access to where he works. So where is the appropriate time and place to assemble and protest a powerful government official?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 8, 2022 at 01:51 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink

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