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Supreme Court Case Pits Protesters’ Rights to Be Heard Against Politicians

The Daily Astoria 
Editorial

Can political protests be restricted so that political leaders don’t have to listen?

This is one way of framing the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court when it considers this term whether Secret Service agents were right in ordering protesters to be removed from President George W. Bush’s sight and hearing during a 2004 visit to Jacksonville in southern Oregon.

The other main way to view the matter is whether the Secret Service has unquestionable discretion to ensure the president’s safety by keeping obvious opponents much farther away than they keep obvious supporters.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit – the second-highest level of federal court – was seriously split on this question in a decision released in February. A majority of the 28 judges ruled that a lawsuit can proceed against the agents who required protesters to be moved more than twice as far away from the president than supporters. The Obama administration, supporting the agents, asked Supreme Court justices to consider quashing the lawsuit.

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