Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Disruptive behavior during a public meeting

Disruptive behavior during a public meeting
13 Misc 3d 64

Although the Town Board announced that members of the public would be permitted to speak during its meeting about any of the topics on the agenda, on individual insisted on speaking about items not on the agenda. Despite the Town Supervisor's warnings that the speaker would be asked to leave if he did not limit his comments to items on the agenda, the individual persisted in asking questions and making comments concerning matters not on the agenda.

When the individual refused to leave when asked to do, he was arrested and charged and convicted of trespass.

The Appellate Term affirmed the individual's conviction, noting that a government entity has a significant interest in controlling its agenda and preventing the disruption of its public meetings and such entities "may confine their meetings to specified subject matter." The decision notes that while a speaker may not be stopped from speaking because the moderator disagrees with the viewpoint he or she is expressing, he or she may be stopped if his or her speech becomes irrelevant or repetitious.

In the words of the court::

In the case at bar, defendant's questions were irrelevant to the purpose of the meeting and inappropriate for the time and place, as the public was only privileged to discuss topics set forth on the agenda. We are of the opinion that the Town Board's actions were narrowly tailored to a significant interest, to wit, addressing matters on the agenda in an orderly and efficient manner. Furthermore, rather than restrict defendant's speech completely, the Town Board merely directed him to discuss agenda-related matters.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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