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Summary Judgment Win Impacts Rules Governing Free Speech

San Francisco Chronicle

Ajay Krishnan and Daniel Purcell’s motion for summary judgment persuaded a federal judge to rule that the Golden Gate Bridge District violated demonstrators' rights by requiring small groups to obtain permits to use the walkway, banning bullhorns and handle-held signs, and barring protests after 2 p.m. on weekends, a federal judge has ruled.

"This is a victory for free speech, for spontaneous speech and for the right to protest," Ajay Krishnan, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said.

The case stemmed from two individuals who believed the Bridge District’s limitations on free speech violated their constitutional rights. Derek Turner wished to protest China’s foreign policy during the Olympic torch relay, and Toby Blome wished to oppose the war in Iraq as part of her monthly Code Pink protests that she has organized over the last four years. After CHP officers prevented them from carrying small signs at the Bridge, the plaintiffs alerted the ACLU and Ajay Krishnan, a Keker & Van Nest partner and former ACLU attorney.

Krishnan and fellow Keker & Van Nest partner Daniel Purcell took on the case. They demonstrated that the restrictions violated the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights. Furthermore, they proved that the Bridge District had offered no evidence that allowing protests by individuals and small groups would increase traffic delays, create dangerous driving conditions, or endanger public safety. On January 7, the court granted their motion for summary judgment.  

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