The judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are often considered among the most liberal in the U.S. After all, they were the ones who allowed a homosexual judge to rule that a vote by Californians against homosexual marriage should be thrown out.
But now, three members of the panel have sided with a man who was arrested for reading a Bible on the sidewalk outside a state building.
WND reported the state accused two men of engaging in a demonstration or gathering, illegally, outside the state driver’s license office in Hemet, California. The charges were prompted by one of the men who was reading a Bible aloud near a line of people waiting to enter.
They eventually were acquitted by a judge, Timothy Freer.
“The prosecution failed to meet its burden of proof that our clients committed a crime when they read the Bible aloud in front [of] a line of people,” Robert Tyler, general counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom, which worked on the case, said at the time.
The judge entered the directed “not guilty” verdict on a motion from the defense after the prosecution rested.
“We were very pleased because Judge Freer also agreed that the law was unconstitutional because it gives too much unfettered discretion to law enforcement in determining whether someone’s speech or other expressive activity has the effect, intent or propensity to draw a crowd or onlookers,” said Tyler.
“Although Judge Freer’s final verdict did not include a finding on constitutionality, his comments certainly vindicate our argument that the law is unconstitutional.”
But Advocates for Faith & Freedom also filed a federal lawsuit over the Feb. 2, 2011, arrest by officer Darren Meyer of the California State Patrol, alleging unlawful arrest.
A trial judge granted the officer’s motion for summary judgment in his favor.
Now, the lawyers at Advocates for Faith & Freedom confirmed the 9th Circuit, on appeal, ordered the case against the officer reopened and returned to the lower court for “further proceedings consistent with this disposition.”
The legal team explained Meyer “erroneously cited Mr. Mackey for violating a state law that forbids the interference with an open business through obstruction and intimidation.”
“The Ninth Circuit rebuked the officer’s fabricated claims in his police report.”
The officer reported that Mackey was “yelling at the people waiting in line,” “that there was obvious verbal confrontation between the group of men and the people standing in line” and that the “confrontation was heated and nearing a physical state.”
But video contradicted his claims:
The legal team noted Mackey “offered to dismiss his suit if the CHP simply admitted the arrest was unlawful and agreed to properly instruct its officers,” but the highway patrol refused.
“An innocent man exercising his religious liberty and free speech was criminally prosecuted based on erroneous claims put forth by a false and deceitful police report. It appears to me that the arrest and prosecution of my client was politically motivated because they did not agree with my client’s speech. But that is exactly why our founders created the First Amendment – to protect even disagreeable speech. Today’s decision renews my hope in the justice system,” Tyler explained.
The appeals court panel found: “No reasonable officer would arrest an individual without ensuring that individual did not have a permit” for his actions.
“Second, it was objectively unreasonable for Meyer to think Mackey was obstructing or intimidating individuals based on the information relayed by the dispatcher in combination with what he witnessed upon arriving on the scene.
“We thus conclude that Meyer is not entitled to qualified immunity.”