US News and World Report by Curt Anderson, AP
November 13, 2017
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a First Amendment case brought by a Florida man who previously won a landmark ruling from the justices on whether his floating home was a house, not a boat subject to easier government seizure under laws that govern ships and boats.
This time, the justices agreed to hear a case in which Fane Lozman sued after being charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest at a public meeting.
Lozman, 56, was never brought to trial on the charges — prosecutors dropped them after concluding there was no possibility of a conviction. Lozman then sued Riviera Beach, claiming his arrest at a 2006 city council meeting violated the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee because it was in retaliation for opposing a marina redevelopment plan and accusing council members of corruption.
A jury sided with the city after a trial and an appeals court upheld that verdict. Lozman, however, took the case to the Supreme Court, arguing in part that U.S. appeals courts across the country are split on the issue of retaliatory arrest versus free speech.
The Supreme Court will likely schedule oral argument in Lozman’s latest case for late this winter or early spring. The case comes at a time of more frequent protests across the U.S. against the administration of President Donald Trump, over police race relations and divisive issues such as Confederate monuments.
The First Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes government openness and transparency in Florida, said in a brief supporting Lozman that it’s important for governments to have clear guidance from the Supreme Court on balancing probable cause for an arrest with free speech rights.
“The danger of being arrested in retaliation for engaging in protected speech threatens to chill the exercise of core First Amendment rights such as questioning or otherwise criticizing the government,” the foundation’s filing says. “The potential chilling effect is especially acute in smaller towns and cities across America.” [READ MORE]