I filed my federal lawsuit against the University of AZ and their police department for my illegal arrest and incarceration last year at the annual “Tucson Festival of Books,” the third largest outdoor book fair in the United States.
This case, if won, will have far reaching implications for those who use amplification in their outdoor ministries: sidewalk counselors in front of abortion clinics and open-air preachers, to name two.
My case is unique because the case law (Supreme Court rulings, for example) concerning the use of outdoor amplification is not well settled. Some district courts have ruled one way while others have ruled the opposite.
In general, the use of amplification is recognized by the courts as being an essential part of our first amendment rights: one must not only be allowed to speak but also to be heard, and amplification allows this to effectively occur with our target audience.
The problem is that amplification runs into obstacles that cities and universities use to restrict its use. For example, one argument against the use of unrestricted amplified sound is that it can bother and annoy people and others affected by its use. Universities use this argument to their advantage by claiming (and sometimes legitimately so) that preachers using amplification interfere with classroom activity.
Again, my case is unique in that it is asking the 9th Circuit Court to rule on this specific issue: can a university forbid the use of any and all amplification by the general public during the weekend at at public, outdoor event when the vendors, musicians, and other paid participants of the event are allowed to do so, even though the public is freely invited with no cost to attend?
I say “no,” and this is the point of controversy.
As of yet, I cannot find a Christian law firm to take my case “pro bono” (for free). This case might literally take years to work its way through the courts. Can I afford hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees to litigate this? Of course not.
The difficulty in finding an experienced first amendment law firm to take my case on a pro bono basis is because of the above mentioned unknowns. I’ve worked with first amendment lawyers long enough to understand they only want to take cases where they are assured of victory; then, the losing side pays all the bills incurred because of the litigation.
This case is certainly no shoe-in for victory. The attorney I hired at first to take this case (paying him almost $2,000 for next to nothing; I let him go) gave best odds at 60/40 in my favor. As he delved more closely into the case law, he lowered the odds to even.
These are some of the reasons I decided to file this action myself with no attorney representing me. I have a fair amount of experience in fighting my own legal battles and am familiar with much of the court requirements for filing a lawsuit.
But District Court is an animal of a different color. This is Federal Court and not your local justice court or even Superior Court. This will require, and I have already dedicated well over 100 hours into this battle, extensive amounts of time, paperwork, research, and a fair amount of money.
I may lose. If I hired a law firm and lost, I’m out all of their fees; plus, I may have to pay the costs and attorney fees for the State if I lose. This is always an additional risk of these lawsuits.
The kingdom benefits, of course, are huge. A favorable ruling should help open up all public universities for amplified sound, with certain conditions. No longer should God hating, university bureaucrats and police officers be able to bully preachers for using amplified sound unless they can make a strong showing that such sound truly disrupts indoor classroom activity.
I plan of keeping everyone posted on future updates.