DENVER — Two people who were booted from a Denver public appearance by then-President George W. Bush have lost their bid to revive their lawsuit against the people who asked them to leave.
Leslie Weise and Alex Young claim their First Amendment rights were violated when they were ejected from the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum on March 21, 2005. Bush was appearing at a taxpayer-funded town hall to tout his plan to privatize Social Security.
In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 27 said volunteers Jay Bob Klinkerman and Michael Casper cannot be sued because they were acting under the direction of the White House in an official capacity at the event. The panel also said that Weise and Young's constitutional rights at a private facility weren't clearly established.
Weise and Young claim they were singled out because they arrived at the event with a bumper sticker that read, "No More Blood For Oil," a reference to the Iraq war.
In a strongly worded dissent, Judge William J. Holloway disagreed with the majority opinion, saying that the pretext used by Klinkerman and Casper to eject Weise and Young was "so flimsy that the violation (of their rights) was obvious."
"It is simply astounding that any member of the executive branch could have believed that our Constitution justified this egregious violation of Plaintiffs' rights," he wrote.
Young told the Associated Press that they were weighing their options, which could include asking about a dozen appellate judges to review the case or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a statement, Casper's attorney, Sean R. Gallagher, said the panel's ruling affirms previous rulings that hold that "when the government chooses to speak, the Constitution does not give a heckler the right to play ventriloquist."
Added Casper: "I am pleased that I have now been vindicated by two federal courts."
In its decision, the panel said the defendants did not show that the government could not exclude them from an official speech on private property on the basis of their viewpoint. It also noted that the speech the bumper sticker happened outside the event.
"Plaintiffs have identified no authority suggesting that mere attendance is transformed into speech or even expressive activity because of the speech elsewhere," the panel wrote.
A separate lawsuit filed against Bush White House officials is pending.