U.S. Supreme Court Notebook

Supreme Court to hear ­crisis pregnancy centers' appeal

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court is stepping into a free speech fight over California's attempt to regulate anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers.

The justices said Monday they will hear an appeal from centers that complained that a new state law forces them to provide information about abortion and other services.

Lower courts had allowed the law to take effect. Unlicensed centers also must inform clients of their status.

A federal appeals court in New York struck down similar provisions of a New York City ordinance, although it upheld the requirement for unlicensed centers to say that they lack a license.

The free-speech issue has arisen in different contexts around the country.

In 2014, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Virginia, struck down a North Carolina law that required abortion providers to show and describe an ultrasound to the pregnant woman. The court said the law is "ideological in intent" and violates doctors' free-speech rights.

In February, the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Florida could not prohibit doctors from talking about gun safety with their patients, upending parts of a 2011 state law. Under the law, doctors faced fines and the possible loss of their medical licenses for discussing guns with patients.

The abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice California was a prime sponsor of the California law. NARAL estimates that 4,000 crisis pregnancy centers operate in the U.S.

The California centers complained that both their speech and religious freedom rights are violated by the law. But the justices will only review the free speech claim.

The case will be argued early next year.

Justices to rule on MN voting place ban on political attire

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court has agreed to determine whether a Minnesota statute that prohibits wearing political apparel in polling places is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court said Monday it will take a case challenging the law. Several groups sued just before the 2010 election to try to ensure officials would not bar them from wearing tea party apparel to the polls, including buttons that read, "Please I.D. Me." They referred to legislation that would have required voters to show identification at the polls.

Minnesota voters in 2012 rejected a state constitutional amendment that would have required voters to show photo identification before voting.

Lower courts upheld Minnesota's law barring political apparel at voting places, saying it's reasonable and applies equally to all political material regardless of viewpoint.

@ROUND UP Briefs Headline:Florida man back at Supreme Court with <k-10>1<k$>st Amendment case

MIAMI (AP) - 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.

"What makes America beautiful is our personal freedoms," Lozman said in an interview Monday. "And I'll be damned if I'm going to let anybody take away my First Amendment rights to 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."

In its court documents, Riviera Beach attorneys contend that the City Council did not order Lozman's arrest at the 2006 meeting and that city ordinances then in effect gave police officers sole power to make that decision. Therefore, they argued, the arrest was not retaliation for criticizing government.

"Police officers alone had discretion to decide whether to make an arrest, and could do so only upon independently determining that there was probable cause to do so," the city's attorneys said. "Lozman's arrest was caused not by the city's own policies, but rather by the independent decisions of a city employee."

The Supreme Court's 2013 ruling on Lozman's floating home, which was seized and destroyed by Rivera Beach, was seen by legal experts as an important precedent in maritime law for thousands of people who make their homes on the water as well as floating businesses such as casinos. Different laws apply to vessels and homes, with homeowners receiving more protection from seizure in Florida and other states.

Chief Justice John Roberts was quoted later as saying Lozman's floating home case was his favorite of that term.

Lozman, a former Marine Corps officer and wealthy financial trader, marveled Monday that he has managed to get the nation's highest court to consider two of his cases when the vast majority of appeals are turned away.

"It's a noble fight," he said. "It's an important time in our history. I'm proud to do my part to stand up for the First Amendment."

Published: Tue, Nov 14, 2017

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