A Supreme Court 'harangue' that can lead to jail time

McClatchy Washington BureauFebruary 26, 2014 

Noah Newkirk, a Los Angeles resident, faces a potential jail sentence of up to 60 days for his reported outburst at a Supreme Court oral argument Wednesday.

At least he didn't climb in the court's fountain. Turns out, that's a crime, too.

Newkirk, after standing to denounce the court's campaign finance rulings, was charged with violating Title 40, Section 6134 of the U.S. Code. The provision makes it:

"Unlawful to discharge a firearm, firework or explosive, set fire to a combustible, make a harangue or oration, or utter loud, threatening or abusive language in the Supreme Court Building or grounds."

Interesting word, harangue. Its root is actually not negative in the slightest, as its origins simply refer to speaking in public. Even the primary definition, per Merriam-Webster's, is simply a "speech addressed to a public assembly." It is the secondary meaning, though, with reference to "ranting" that we most associate with the term.

This is not the only limitation on public 'speech' or activity in and around the Supreme Court. Related provisions also make it unlawful to, among other things:

"Offer or expose any article for sale in the Supreme Court Building or grounds; to display a sign, placard, or other form of advertisement in the Building or grounds; or to solicit fares, alms, subscriptions, or contributions in the Building or grounds."

And pay special heed to Section 6133, which states it is unlawful to:

"Step or climb on, remove, or in any way injure any statue, seat, wall, fountain, or other erection or architectural feature, or any tree, shrub, plant, or turf."

 

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