[JURIST] The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] published a decision [opinion, PDF] on Monday declaring that Utah’s requirement of a USD $1 million insurance policy for demonstrations violates the First Amendment [text] of the constitution. The case was brought by two Salt Lake City environmental organizations that sought to have a parade on a state street, and Utah’s Department of Transportation [official website] policy required both an insurance policy as well as an indemnification form. The Tenth Circuit held that the insurance policy requirement was an unconstitutional burden on free speech, because the policy created a lack of alternative channels of expression, the cost of the permit was not aligned with the cost borne by the state and the fact that Utah has state code that protects against liability meant the government’s interest could be served in other ways. Utah’s Office of the Attorney General [official website] has not indicated whether it plans to petition the US Supreme Court [official website] on the matter.
The question of what constitutes speech and the extent to which free speech can be burdened is one that has been spoken to by nearly every court in the United States, and continues to be clarified. JURIST Guest Columnist Faisal Kutty weighed in on the free speech implications of laws criminalizing the non-consensual publication of obscene materials [JURIST op-ed], commonly known as “revenge porn.” Earlier this month the Supreme Court agreed [JURIST report] to hear a case on whether state governments are allowed to place restrictions on specialty license plates under the First Amendment. Also this month an appeals court struck down [JURIST report] North Carolina’s Woman’s Right to Know Act as unconstitutional under the First Amendment of the US Constitution, stating that the government cannot compel a physician to express a preference to a patient. In September the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld a ban on gay conversion therapy in New Jersey, rejecting the plaintiff’s argument that the law violates their rights to free speech.