Keker & Van Nest LLP is pleased to announce that attorneys Ajay Krishnan and Daniel Purcell’s successful motion for summary judgment has changed the rules governing free speech on the Golden Gate Bridge. As a result of their summary judgment motion, many of the restrictions that the Golden Gate Bridge District imposed on individuals or small groups who wished to protest with signs—including requiring a permit, imposing a four-business day waiting period, banning signs with handles, prohibiting sound amplification, and prohibiting protests after 2:00 p.m. on weekends—were found unconstitutional.
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.
“This is a victory for free speech, for spontaneous speech, and for the right to protest,” Krishnan said. "The Court’s decision affirms that individuals and small groups don’t need government approval to express themselves in a public place.”
Krishnan focuses on complex commercial disputes and intellectual property litigation. He also has a substantial pro bono practice, including a lawsuit challenging California's use of an unnecessary paralytic agent in the state’s lethal injection protocol as a violation of the public's First Amendment right to witness executions. Prior to Keker & Van Nest, Krishnan was an attorney at the ACLU of Northern California; he currently serves on its board.
Purcell has extensive experience in complex civil and criminal litigation, with a particular focus representing companies and individuals accused of professional misconduct, fraud, or racketeering. He has also successfully represented numerous pro bono clients in matters ranging from habeas corpus petitions to Clean Water Act suits, and recently led the team which overturned the unconstitutional murder conviction of Caramad Conley, wrongly imprisoned for 18 years.