The niceties of real property law were the essentially exclusive focus of justices’ attention yesterday as the U. S. Supreme Court considered the lawfulness of an arrest of a protester near but outside the main gate of Vandenberg Air Force Base on the Pacific Coast Highway. The protester’s lawyer, UC Irvine Law School Dean and leading First Amendment scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, outlined the free speech issues in the case in a law journal Tuesday. But, as noted by Court observer Lyle Denniston in SCOTUSblog, Chemerinsky’s arguments were given short shrift by the justices, who appeared far more interested in the intricacies of easement law, and appeared disposed to rule—at least for the majority—that although the Air Force as owner of the base virtually all the way to the beach, had given the State of California an easement for travel over Highway 1, it retained the right to control speech in that zone in the interests of national security. Cases such as this are examples of what Californians Aware means, in its mission statement, by its reference to “the trends to be overcome,” including “Eroding opportunity: Dwindling space or time for expected and protected speech.”
About The Author
Terry Francke has a 38-year history of helping journalists, citizens and public officials understand and use their First Amendment and open government rights. With CalAware, Francke has authored comprehensive and authoritative guidebooks to California law on access to government meetings and public records and the news gathering and publication rights of journalists. Focusing on these issues in public forum law, he supervises CalAware's legislative and litigation initiatives; conducts workshops on legal compliance; helps design public records audits; supports local sunshine ordinance drafting efforts; writes CalAware Today, a blog on current developments and proposals in the law and best practices; and answers countless queries by phone and e-mail from citizens, journalists, public officials and employees, and lawyers. Francke previously served 14 years as executive director and general counsel to the California First Amendment Coalition, after a 10-year post as legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association. He has served as an advisory panel member to the National Center on Courts and the Media; taught journalism law at the Department of Communication at Stanford University; and served as an expert contributor to the 1994 major revisions to the Ralph M. Brown Act and the 2004 ballot proposition making open government a basic right of citizens under the California Constitution. Francke is a 1967 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a 1979 graduate of McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific. Prior to his legal career, Francke worked as a weekly newspaper editor and in military and local government public affairs positions.
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