DENVER (CN) — “Very disturbed” by testimony that court workers were harassed, a federal judge dissolved a preliminary injunction that protected a jury nullification advocacy group’s right to distribute pamphlets outside a Denver courthouse.
U.S. District Judge William Martinez found that the Fully Informed Jury Association appears to have changed its goal from educating the public to insulting and taunting judicial employees.
His July 27 order cites testimony from court employees who said that after the injunction was issued, the advocates became “needlessly combative, aggressively intimidating, gratuitously vulgar, and intentionally disruptive.”
“When the offensive and disruptive manner of communication far eclipses any ability for the listener to consider the substance of what is communicated, the speaker should realize that the pride and privilege of exercising free speech has unfortunately overtaken the purpose of doing so,” Martinez wrote in a 66-page Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.
“In this case, plaintiffs crossed that line. Their ‘in your face’ taunting of and screaming at court employees — individuals whose only offense was to attempt to discharge their duties as court employees — was wholly unnecessary and in the end counterproductive.
“On this record one could argue that jury nullification is less the cause that plaintiffs seek to advance than is the cause of preserving their own perceived entitlement to emphatically disrupt the essential operations of the state judicial system, on whatever pretense, at whatever cost.”
Members of Occupy Denver and the Fully Informed Jury Association sued Denver in August 2015 for a preliminary injunction to allow the advocacy group to pass out juror nullification pamphlets. Jury nullifiers believe jurors may free a guilty party if they do not agree with the law the person was guilty of breaking.
Denver agreed that the plaintiffs’ desire to peacefully hand out their pamphlets at the Lindsey-Flanigan (state) Courthouse did not violate Colorado law, and the preliminary injunction was granted. But on March 16, 2016 jury nullification advocates Eric Brandt and Mark Iannicelli were arrested after a group of women told court officials they had been harassed going into the courthouse.
Martinez issued a second order on Thursday that found the City of Denver in contempt for failing to inform its officers that the advocates were allowed to pass out their literature. However, Martinez found that the individual officers were not culpable, and “did not behave contemptuously.”
“Denver itself … failed to educate its police force regarding the Preliminary Injunction and, as a result, caused its police officers to unknowingly violate the Injunction,” the order states. “Denver will therefore be held in contempt and will be required to pay Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees.”