Potts v. United States

The Facts

Defendant charged with displaying a banner or device “designed or adapted to bring into public notice a party, organization, or movement” on the steps of the Supreme Court.  They were wearing protesting Guantanamo Bay prisons and wear black hood and an orange jumpsuit. They ascended the Supreme Court stairs and were asked multiple times to return to the sidewalk.  When they didn’t, they were arrested.

The Issue

Whether the ban violates free speech.

The Holding

No, conviction affirmed.


“The government can regulate speech as long as restrictions are reasonable and not an effort to suppress expression merely because public officials oppose the speaker’s view.”  The purpose of the ban is to permit “the unimpeded access and egress of litigants and visitors to the Court, and to preserve the appearance of the Court as a body not swayed by external influence.”  The restriction is reasonable even if defendant can show his conduct was not the type of conduct the ban was intended to isolate.  The statute is also viewpoint neutral on its face.

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