Baytown, Texas sued in federal court for ticketing man who protested red light cameras by holding a sign.
As lawsuit explains, Schirmbeck did not have hundreds of thousands to spend on advertising his side of the issue -- unlike the red light camera firm American Traffic Solutions (ATS). So he got out some paint and wrote "BAN RED LIGHT CAMERAS, VOTE YES PROP 1" on poster board and held it on West Baker Road on September 22, 2010. Baytown sign inspector Debbie Sherman pulled up in a city truck to speak to Schirmbeck.
"You can't be there," Sherman said.
The next day, Sherman sent a letter threatening Schirmbeck with a fine of $500 per day if he did not stop holding that sign, citing Baytown's sign ordinance....
"Our founding fathers put freedom of speech into the Bill of Rights just for people like Byron -- the common man who wishes only to speak and express themselves about their government's policies," Schirmbeck's attorney, Randall L. Kallinen, told TheNewspaper. "Just as the British Empire did against the colonists and colonial presses, Baytown did to Byron: 'Shut up or face our wrath.'"
Slowly but very surely our rights are being washed away here in the US and we are just standing by and watching it happen.
Might be wrong, but Texans don't often put up with BS!
I'm sure that there will be a trainload of lawyers willing to take the case & he should sue the town for at least $1 M dollars for infringement on his civil rights.
Mr. Schirmbeck is correct. The city sign inspector's interpretation of the sign ordinance does appear to be an unconstitutional violation of his free speech rights. The sign was not *placed.* The sign was being *held* by a citizen on a public right-of-way which is a legally recognized expression of free speech. The idea that the city government had a vested financial interest opposed to the position expressed in his sign is further fuel on the fire. But I don't think he should be entitled to money for this since he wasn't fined or arrested. The remedy the court should order is that the city of Baytown is admonished not to enforce this regulation this way. Maybe they have to pick up his legal tab for taking them to court. That's it as far as I'm concerned.
of his First Amendment Rights.
I respectively disagree Mr.dagarmin. The only way to hurt a government agency is to take away it's budget money. You can't put it in jail or place it under house arrest and ordering it to stop an action just forces the managers to find another way. But I personally believe that once a government is found to be guilty of violating the constitutional rights of one of it's citizens, the people responsible for making the decision / regulation should be the ones punished. This is the only way I know of to force those nameless and faceless people to seriously consider the consequences of their actions. The same should hold for elected officials, they should be held responsible for what they do. Forcing us, through taxes, to pay fines for their illegal actions isn't right.
What would they do if Mr. Schirmbeck stood along the street with a shirt with the same writing on it? That is not a sign.
Just like so many people in government, she is overstepping her authority on this one.
"Sign Inspector" sounds like a demanding job. I wonder how much money the citizens of Baytown are shelling out for Ms. Sherman's skills?
read and drive...and read and...ummmm...okay sounds like a cake political payback job for somebody's girlfriend when you really think about it
Debbie Sherman should go back to grade school to learn about our constitutional rights.
I hope he takes them to court.
Just a little food for thought. I wonder what the city's response would have been (be) if the sign had read:
"WE NEED MORE RED LIGHT CAMERAS"
I am thinking the city's response would have been (be) nothing but "Tumbleweeds and Crickets."
I think a lawsuit may be in order.
I hope he sues and wins.
I don't care what he's awarded beyond the legal fees and loss of pay, but someone needs to stand up for OUR basic freedoms. I'm surprised there isn't some national organization already jumping on his bandwagon to provide legal fees.
Sherman should be the one going to jail!
I agree, I hope he wins big time. This case seems like a classic case of government abusing their powers to intimidate a citizen, regardless of whether the intimidation is legal or not. If the city violated the law, they need to feel the pain so they will think twice next time.
But I don't think this guy and/or his lawyers should get a windfall since neither were damaged in any significant way. The amount, if awarded should be sent as a rebate to all citizens of that city and the plaintiff given maybe three times the individual award to compensate him for his time in bring the case to trial.
I'm sorry; I don't understand your position. You want exactly what money to change hands exactly how here? Keep in mind that if the city is ordered to pay a judgment, that can only legally be paid by taxpayers... like you if you live there. You're talking about a lawsuit here. A court cannot fire an official or force one department employing a misguided official to pay a judgment out of their departmental budget... these are not legal remedies in lawsuits generally speaking. Lawsuit judgments are not paid out of the offending department's budget; they're paid from the city's liability budget or by liability insurance policies which are charged to taxpayers. (When there isn't enough money in the liability budget/insurance payouts to pay a judgment, the liability gets carried over until there is enough money to pay it. It can take years; many big cities are years behind.) And a court can't normally transfer money from the personal account of an overzealous government official (as opposed to the city that employs her) to a citizen… not legal either.
What do you want this court to do (that they can do) if you like the idea of throwing money at this plaintiff?
I'm sorry; I don't understand your position. You want exactly what money to change hands exactly how here? Keep in mind that if the city is ordered to pay a judgment, that can only legally be paid by taxpayers... like you if you live there. You're talking about a lawsuit here. A court cannot fire an official or force one department employing a misguided official to pay a judgment out of their departmental budget... these are not legal remedies in lawsuits generally speaking. Lawsuit judgments are not paid out of the offending department's budget; they're paid out the city's liability budget and charged to taxpayers. (When there isn't enough money in the liability budget to pay a judgment, the liability gets carried over until there is enough money to pay it. It can take years.) And a court can't normally transfer money from the personal account of an overzealous government official (as opposed to the city that employs her) to a citizen… not legal either.
I want the court to rule that the sign being held by Mr.Schirmbeck to be placed up the rear body orifice of Ms. Sherman.
Let's not be crude.
should have been on the end of a long stick blocking the camera lens of the red light camera.
Mr. dagarmin, I'll try to clarify my statements for you. First of all, there is no such thing as a government. What you and I are talking about when we discuss government is a collection of PEOPLE who are empowered to pass and enforce laws, hear and attempt to resolve disputes and tax citizens in order to support these functions. All actions that we attribute to government are the result of decisions made by these people. Absolving these people from being responsible for their actions makes as much sense as absolving a bank robber by saying he is a member of a criminal enterprise and that is what/who is responsible.
If you will read what I said again and consider that I didn't intend to say that the Department of Transportation should be ordered to pay the award. When I said "government agency" I was referring to the city government, county government, state government or federal government as the agency. As I pointed out, there is only one way to hurt a government - take away it's tax money (budget) - but that doesn't really hurt anyone except the tax payer and, since government doesn't exist as an entity, the only ones hurt are the very people who are sinned against.
You and I basically agree, I just stated my believes a little differently than you.
.......The sign was not *placed.* The sign was being *held* by a citizen on a public right-of-way which is a legally recognized expression of free speech. ......
Having been involved in a number of pickets myself, hodlding signs, this is my understanding too. Lets add though that as long as he's not unduely obstructing access or passage, he;s fine. If it ever goes to court though, who knows. THe supreme court has come up with some truly bizarre rulings the last 12 years or so
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