It seems that Duval County Chief Judge Mark Mahon (DCCJMM to his fans) has rather narrow views of precisely when and where the Constitution applies. On July 1, DCCJMM handed down Administrative Order 2015-3, banning filming in certain areas of the courthouse and forbidding protests on courthouse grounds that “degrade or call into question the integrity of the court or any of its judges.” Nope, that’s not a joke. We checked.
Chief Judge Mahon’s administrative order created a free-speech-less bubble around the courthouse, the Office of the State Attorney, their parking garages, the lawn, the Courthouse sidewalks, heck, maybe even the skies above and the grounds below and everywhere else that freedom lives. Individuals who penetrated the free-speech-less bubble with their vile protests of the judiciary were subject to criminal contempt of court.
Well, why stop at restricting freedom of the press, freedom to peaceable assembly and freedom of speech? Here are some suggestions for DCCJMM for his future administrative orders.
1. Free speech areas. Possible locations: The Jacksonville Landing (no one goes there, anyway), Cleveland Arms Apartments (they’re already protesting there, so it’s convenient), and I-95 during rush hour (we’re pretty sure there’s a precedent for this).
2. Judicial chambers should be renamed ‘Star Chambers.’ You’re the star, baby. Let it shine.
3. On the subject of names, DCCJMM doesn’t have that certain je ne sais quoi that denotes power and commands respect. So how about Supreme Transcendental Overlord of Laws? or All Shall Serve the Honorable Overlord of Law and Ennui.
4. In absentia criminal trials. The government spends buckets of dough shuttling inmates back and forth from jail to court, court to jail, when everyone knows it takes only a second to decide if they’re guilty. Think of all the money it would save if we just showed the jury their pictures!
After Photography Is Not a Crime activists who were cited for violating the order sued to block his administrative order, Chief Judge Mahon canceled it and re-issued a new order on July 7 that somewhat backed off the rapid acceleration to thought control. Rather than banning all protests of judiciary, the new order merely prohibits protests that “unreasonably disrupt, disturb, interrupt, and interfere with the impartial and orderly conduct of the judiciary,” police and security.
So, under the previous order, citizens could have been arrested merely for criticizing a judge on public grounds. Under the current one, if a police officer decides they’re “unreasonably” disruptive, they still could.
Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, says, “While it might not be the most comfortable thing for the judge walking into a courthouse to have a guy standing there on the courthouse steps saying he’s crooked, I’m sorry, that comes with the territory … we may not like what he says, but he has the right to criticize.”
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