U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. Upholds Ban on Obtaining Signatures on Petitions on Post Office Interior Sidewalks

On July 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, upheld the Postal Service regulation that bans obtaining signatures on interior postal sidewalks. The case is Initiative & Referendum Institute v U.S. Postal Service, 10-5337. The regulation was created in 2000 and this case had been filed in 2000. Here is the decision.

The opinion is written by Judge Thomas B. Griffith, a Bush Jr. appointee. It upholds the regulation partly because, in 2010, the Postal Service amended the regulation and said that individuals are free to stand on interior postal sidewalks and ask passers-by to sign a petition. But, the act of signing is not permitted on the sidewalk. Instead, the passer-by must be told that if he or she wishes to sign the petition, he or she must go to an adjoining area where the signature can be affixed to the petition. In effect, this virtually requires that petitioners work in teams, one to stand on the interior post office sidewalk and solicit the signature, and another to be stationed nearby, but off the post office sidewalk. Obviously this is very inefficient.

Judge Janice Rogers Brown, another Bush Jr. appointee, signed the Griffith opinion, and yet wrote separately to say the policy makes no sense. She concludes her separate opinion to say, “The Postal Service may conclude, on further reflection, that the present compromise causes more confusion and disruption than it abates. In that case, the Service may decide to do what is sensible and permit the entire signature-gathering encounter — for that would surely not be unreasonable.” The third judge in this case, Karen Henderson, a Bush Sr. appointee, merely signed the Griffith opinion and did not write separately.

12 comments

  1. Judge Brown has it right. The rule may be constitutional, but it’s stupid.

  2. Demo Rep · · Reply

    On to SCOTUS ASAP ???

  3. Demo Rep · · Reply

    When the 1789 folks put *unreasonable* into the 4th Amdt they opened the legal Pandora’s Box of EVIL regarding reasonable and unreasonable stuff — in the brains of APPOINTED robot party hack Fed judges.

    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V. — including for ALL Fed judges.

    The WAR for Democracy goes on — regardless of UN-reasonable robot party hack judges.

  4. I can actually understand some of the practical, real world practical concerns of the United States Postal Service.

    I suspect that much of the legit concern is about public safety issues. Regretfully, federal buildings and federal employees have been targeted for violence by certain extremist groups and (I suspect) that the underline issue here is about safety.

    I am not saying that the outright ban is valid, but I am also not saying that the concerns of the postal service are silly.

  5. Richard Winger · · Reply

    #4, the post office regulation was created in 2000, before the national security scare prompted by Sep. 11, 2001. And the post office has never mentioned security as a justification for its ban. It says post office customers don’t like being asked to sign a petition; and it says post office customers will be confused and think the postal service approves of whatever group is doing the petition.

  6. Common Tater · · Reply

    Yeah, terrorists often pose as petitioners.

    “Excuse me ma’am, are you a registered voter? Take a quick minute to sign for Islamic Jihad and death to infidels?”

    LOL.

    “It says post office customers don’t like being asked to sign a petition; and it says post office customers will be confused and think the postal service approves of whatever group is doing the petition.”

    Yeah, I’ll never shop at this post office again!

  7. “ETJB Says:
    July 13th, 2012 at 1:25 pm
    I can actually understand some of the practical, real world practical concerns of the United States Postal Service.”

    The concerns of the US Postal Service are nothing short of absurd, and frankly, I think that their intentions are bad.

    The US Postal Service is a government monopoly. The general public is invited on to postal grounds. We the people have an unalienable right to free speech and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The government is supposed to be the servant, not the master. There ought to be unfettered open access for petition circulators at all Post Offices in the USA. The only rule should be don’t block the door, and this does not mean be 50 feet away from the door. Petition circulators ought to be able to stand or set up anywhere that they are not blocking the door. If there is enough room inside a Post Office, they ought to be able to gather petition signatures inside the Post Office as well.

    This decision is nothing short of tyrannical.

  8. “1.Richard Grayson Says:
    July 13th, 2012 at 8:54 am
    Judge Brown has it right. The rule may be constitutional, but it’s stupid.”

    This ruling is clearly unconstitutional. We the people are supposed to have an unalienable right to free speech and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Any attempt to silence speech, or to interfere with the right to petition, is a direct attack on our freedom.

  9. “It upholds the regulation partly because, in 2010, the Postal Service amended the regulation and said that individuals are free to stand on interior postal sidewalks and ask passers-by to sign a petition. But, the act of signing is not permitted on the sidewalk. Instead, the passer-by must be told that if he or she wishes to sign the petition, he or she must go to an adjoining area where the signature can be affixed to the petition. In effect, this virtually requires that petitioners work in teams, one to stand on the interior post office sidewalk and solicit the signature, and another to be stationed nearby, but off the post office sidewalk. Obviously this is very inefficient.”

    This is extremely inefficient, and stupid. This would force petition circulators to work in teams, and to gather less than half of the signatures that they would gather otherwise. This would mean that volunteer petition drives would need even more volunteers, and that paid petition drives would have to pay out more money than necessary, and it is hard to get volunteers, and it already cost a lot of money to hire paid petition circulators.

    Furthermore, not everyone is going to feel like walking off of postal grounds so they can sign the petition, especially if they are elderly and/or disabled. Many people would like to sign but are legitimately in a hurry. If the person asking people to sign the petition then has to direct them to walk off of postal property to sign the petition, a lot of people will say, “Sorry, I just don’t have time to do this.” and then they will leave.

    Also, what about bad weather? Often times there is bad weather during the course of a petition drive, such as rain, snow, or extreme heat. Many Post Offices have large over hangs where there is plenty of room for petitioners to stand or set up a table. Some Post Offices even have plenty of room inside where petitioners could stand or set up a table without interfering with the flow of the Post Office. This idiotic, tyrannicl regulation means that one petitioner would get to stand near the Post Office to direct people to sign off of Post Office grounds, while the petitioner holding the clip boards is standing off of the postal grounds in the rain, snow, or extreme heat. This would obviously cut down on the number of signatures that they would collect, and it would in fact make many of these locations unworkable for signature gathering. DUH!

  10. “It says post office customers don’t like being asked to sign a petition;”

    Nice of them to speak for everyone….NOT! What about all of those people who WANT to sign petitions at the Post Office? Do their opinions could for nothing?

    Also, what about the right of the people to petition their government for a redress of grievances? I’d say that our unalienable rights trump the whims of people who are “offended” or “annoyed” by people who are excercising their 1st amendment rights.

    Often times, people who are gathering petition signatures are doing so because they are mandated to do so because of state ballot access laws to place candidates on the ballot. Interfering with a candidate who is trying to qualify for the ballot is actually a crime under Title 18 of the United States Code. Many people also gather petition signatures to place initiatives, referenda, or recalls on the ballot, and this is a legally established mechanism for changing government in many states and localities. Whether a person is gahtering petition signatures to place candidates on the ballot, or to place an initiative, referendum, or a recall on the ballot, or if they are just petitioning to urge government officials to act or vote in a certain way, the principle should remain the same, and that is that there should be as few restrictions as possible on the petition ciruclators (as in beyond common sense things like don’t block the door).

    “and it says post office customers will be confused and think the postal service approves of whatever group is doing the petition.”

    Wow! Talk about catering to the most moronic elements of society.

    This is like saying that if two people are walking inside a Post Office while wearing sports jerseys of a particular team, perhaps while having a conversation about the team, that people will think that the Post Office is supporting that team, so therefore sports jerseys should be banned at the Post Office.

    This is like saying that if a man walks into the Post Office while wearing a yarmulke, that the Post Office must be supporting Jews. This is like saying that if a woman walks into a Post Office while wearing a habit, that the Post Office must be supporting the Catholic Church.

    What if somebody pulls in their car at a Post Office, and they have a political bumper sticker on their car. Say the bumper sticker is supportive of a particular candidate or party. Does this mean that the Post Office supports that candidate or party? Should some pin head mistakenly thinking that the Post Office supports a political candidate or party because they saw a bumper sticker on a car in the parking lot lead to a ban on political bumper stickers on cars in Post Office parking lots?

    One of the few activities that the Post Office does allow is fundraising for veterans. What if a person entering a Post Office sees somebody outside the Post Office’s door with a table and donation box and a sign that says, “Please Donate to Disabled/Homeless Veterans”? Does this mean that the Post Office is pro-military, or pro-war? What if a person walks by and that person is anti-military or anti-war? Should they get offended and throw a big hissy fit about it? Why the double standard when it comes to fundraising for veterans at the Post Office being allowed at the Post Office, but not allowing people to excercise their 1st amendment right to petition their government?

    This decision is purely tyrannical. Each of these judges out to be removed from the bench and put in prison for ruling against our unalienable rights, and anyone at the Post Office who is behind this nonsense ought to fired from their jobs and should join those judges in prison.

  11. A sign that says something like, “The US Postal Service recognizes the right to peaceful, free speech activities on postal grounds. This does not mean that the Post Office endorses or condems any particular cause, but rather recognizes the rights of individuals to engage in 1st amendment activities on postal grounds.”

    A sign like this would explain what should be the rightful situation for 1st amendment activities on postal grounds to all of the idiots out their who can’t figure it out on their own.

  12. “A sign like this would explain what should be the rightful situation for 1st amendment activities on postal grounds to all of the idiots out their who can’t figure it out on their own.”

    Oops, should read “out there”. I type fast and seldom proof read. The facts points remain the same.

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