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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Activist’s City Council Fight Granted Rehearing

(CN) - The 9th Circuit agreed Monday to rehear the case of an immigrant-rights activist who called the mayor of Costa Mesa, Calif., a "racist pig" and was ejected from a city council meeting.

While Costa Mesa was considering a proposal to let local police officers enforce federal immigration laws in 2005, the city council twice removed Benito Acosta from its meetings for violating a rule against "disorderly, insolent, or disruptive behavior."

A founding member of the group Colectivo Tonantizin, Acosta was ejected from one meeting for calling the California town's mayor a "fucking racist pig." Another time, police officers physically removed Acosta after he verbally sparred with Minuteman Project co-founder Jim Gilchrist.

Acosta sued the city and several officials and police officers for violating his First and Fourth Amendment rights, and challenged the law as unconstitutional.

A federal jury in Santa Ana found that Acosta had created a disturbance and that authorities had legally removed him, and a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit mostly affirmed that decision in September 2012.

The Pasadena-based panel objected to the law's use of the word "insolent", finding it overly broad, but ruled that it could be easily removed without altering the law's meaning.

In a dissent, Judge N. R. Smith argued that the law was "unconstitutional in its entirety."

Acosta quickly filed a petition for a panel rehearing of the decision, which the 9th Circuit granted in a brief order published Monday.

The previous ruling has been withdrawn and may not be cited.

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