10/24/2014New Hampshire Supreme Court Takes Up Meter Feeding
New Hampshire Supreme Court hears oral argument in case against meter feeders who lowered meter maid self-esteem.
Officials in the city of Keene, New Hampshire are irate that a band of residents calling themselves Robin Hood of Keene have been feeding the parking meters to prevent the issuance of parking tickets. The Robin Hood group documents its activities on YouTube, which means members often end up following one of the city's three meter maids with a video camera. In a lawsuit that went before the state Supreme Court earlier this month, the city insisted that the court provide injunctive relief to thwart the activities of the meter feeding activists.
"Does the behavior here violate any municipal ordinance or state law, in your view?" Justice James P. Bassett asked.
The city's attorney, Charles P. Bauer, only responded "it could." The city has abandoned most of the legal arguments it advanced to condemn the protest activity. The city's remaining claim is that the parking meter protesters have interfered with the contract signed with the meter maids by causing them undue stress that has made them quit.
"The peace of mind of PEOs, parking enforcement officers, is not a compelling interest," Jon Meyer, lawyer for the Robin Hooders, said. "It does not justify restrictions on First Amendment rights."
Bauer is asking the justices to declare all meter feeders must stay a minimum of fifty feet away from any meter maid. This would severely hamper the ability of the Robin Hood members to protest excessive parking meter enforcement or feed the meters in time. Some of the justices wondered about the implications of allowing city employees to sue peaceful protesters.
"If we accept your theory here," Justice Robert J. Lynn asked Bauer, "does that mean the police officers in Ferguson, Missouri have a lawsuit against -- and I'm not talking about the protesters who were throwing things through windows, just the people who were protesting because they were angry about what happened -- presumably getting in the face of many of the police officers. Do they have a lawsuit against the protesters?"
Keene has no ordinance restricting the activity of the meter feeding protesters.
"Normally most Supreme Court cases relate to time, place and manner restrictions that have been enacted by the community or by ordinance," Justice Bassett said. "Here, as I understand it, that hasn't happened and you're in essence asking the court to enact such an ordinance... That troubles me."