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Constitutional Battle Between the First and Fourteenth Amendments

What Constitutional Right prevails, when the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution collide? This question was recently answered by the Florida Appellate courts in Long v. State, -So.3d- , 2014 WL 5462459 Fla. App. 1st DCA 2014.

Long was convicted of two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation and one count of sexual battery, by a person in familial or custodial authority. Long argued on appeal that because the trial judge allowed, over Long’s objection, burly men wearing jackets embroidered with “Bikers Against Child Abuse;” a freedom of expression guaranteed under the First Amendment, to be present near the courtroom and therefore in the presence of jurors, prior to the commencement of his trial, violated his Fourteenth Amendment Right to a fair trial and the due process of law.

Long argued on appeal that his Fourteenth Amendment Right to a fair trial was violated, because of the actual or inherent prejudice to the jury members, caused by the burly bikers who came into contact with the jurors in the hallway of the courthouse, while they adorned patches stating “Bikers Against Child Abuse,” before the start of his criminal trial. The flip side to the argument is that the courthouse is open to the public and that the First Amendment protects the speech embroidered on the biker’s vest that read “Bikers Against Child Abuse.”

The United Supreme Court has long held that the Fourteenth Amendment provides each individual within their State the “Personal Liberties” contained in the Bill of Rights or the first ten amendments. The Courts have always guaranteed that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provided the right of state criminal defendants to be tried by an impartial jury. The Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the essence of the Sixth Amendment right to be tried “by a panel of impartial, ‘indifferent’ jurors whose verdict must be based upon the evidence developed at the trial.” See Irvin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. 717 (1961).”

As Chief Justice Warren reasoned, the constitutional guarantee of due process requires the courts to safeguard against “the intrusion of factors into the trial process that tend to subvert its purpose.” See Estes v. Texas, 381 U.S. 532 (1965).Specifically, the courts must vigilantly guard against “the atmosphere in and around the courtroom” so that it does not become hostile, as to interfere with the trial process, which means that if the First Amendment Constitutional rights of wearing a badge on your vest that reads “Bikers Against Child Abuse;” and the Fourteenth Amendment Right to a fair trial collide, the Fourteenth Amendment will prevail.

As a practicing criminal trial attorney, I have been faced with crowds of protesting people in courthouse parking lots, courthouse hallways in and throughout courtrooms all over the State of Florida. Many times the criminal defendant is the negative subject of: protesters holding signs outside the courthouse entrance, protestors wearing shirts with negative sayings, protestors wearing buttons on their clothing, like the issue in Long v. State.

Moving a trial judge to have these protestors removed from the courtroom and kept off of courthouse property has always been a challenge for the practicing criminal defense lawyer. The challenge has been with judges, who do not pay respect to the Constitutional Rights of the accused, but who are more interested in garnering votes from the protestors in their future elections.

Many judges will say “I don’t have the authority to remove anyone from the courthouse or courthouse grounds.” This is completely false and unconstitutional judicial language, as these wayward judges must be always reminded of cases like Cox v. Louisiana 379 U.S. 559 (1965), wherein the Supreme Court held that the administration of justice is guaranteed at “all stages and must be free from outside control and influence.” When coupled with the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Estes v. Texas, 381 U.S. 532 (1965), wherein the supreme court reinitiated that the due process clause of the federal constitution obliges the judge to guard against the possibility that “the atmosphere in and around the courtroom might become so hostile as to interfere with the trial process, even though … all the forms of trial conformed to the requirements of law.” To show these wayward vote hungry judges that the criminal defendant’s right to a fair trial trumps the protestor’s right to free speech!

If you or a loved one has been arrested and needs an aggressive criminal defense lawyer, then contact West Palm Beach criminal lawyer Andrew D. Stine. Palm Beach criminal attorney Andrew D. Stine has been trying criminal cases since the early 2000’s in Palm Beach County, as a certified legal intern, and continues today to try criminal cases throughout the entire State of Florida, as a powerful trial attorney for those accused of crimes. Hire Stine or Do the Time.

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