The Bird is the ($50,000) Word
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|Nov 25th, 2009, 11:00 AM||#1|
Join Date: Mar 2008
The Bird is the ($50,000) Word
We’ll try hard to tamp down copious displays of gratitude today, but a Pittsburgh lawsuit makes us very, very thankful we live in such a wondrous country.
It’s been hailed as the middle-finger case ─ one we touched on in this earlier post.
Here’s what happened. David Hackbart got into a messy parking dispute in Pittsburgh in 2006. He exchanged words with another motorist before resorting to that time-honored dispute resolution device: flipping the bird.
And that’s when things got constitutionally interesting. As Hackbart was exercising his digital speech rights, a Pittsburgh police officer drove by and instructed him to restrain his finger.
Hackbart responded by flipping off the police officer. Oops. The officer ticketed Hackbart for disorderly conduct.
A true civil patriot, Hackbart filed a first amendment suit, claiming Pittsburgh has a practice of issuing disorderly-conduct citations based on profane language ─ an alleged violation of the First Amendment.
In March, Pittsburgh federal judge David Stewart Cercone ruled that Hackbart’s bird flippage was constitutionally protected free speech. (click here for the opinion).
But that’s not the end of this tale.
On Tuesday, Pittsburgh’s City Council approved paying $50,000 to settle Hackbart’s lawsuit.
Here’s a report from the Pittsburghchannel.com, which also features this video interview with Hackbart.
“I heard a voice outside the car telling me not to [use my middle finger] and that frustrated me too. So, I flipped that person off and that turned out to be a police officer,” Hackbart told the news channel. “I tried to explain to him it was constitutionally protected, what I did. He did not want to hear it and gave me a citation.”
Hackbart said his lawsuit was about change — not money, according to PittsburghChannel.com.
“Put some sort of policy in place that the officers are trained better and there is some sort of supervision in officers writing tickets so people don’t have to go through what I went through,” Hackbart said.
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