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High Court Turns To Free-Speech Issues, Starting With Military Protesters

Publication Date: 
December 01, 2013
The Washington Post
Robert Barnes

Michael McConnell, director of Stanford Law's Constitutional Law Clinic, comments on the contrast between free speech cases regarding abortion clinics and military bases in The Washington Post. 

Dennis Apel has crossed many lines in his life.

One marked his transition from trucking-company salesman to caretaker of the poor. He stepped past another when he went from persistent, perhaps quixotic, protester to antiwar vandal. Tossing his blood on this military base's entrance sign a decade ago earned him two months in prison.

But the line at issue in his free-speech case before the Supreme Court on Wednesday is real and tangible — painted in thick green on a portion of the Pacific Coast Highway.


Michael McConnell, head of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center, said he wished Apel's case and the one concerning the Massachusetts law had been scheduled for the same day.

"The most important thing about free-speech doctrine is that all speech is treated the same, no matter what its subject and viewpoint," said McConnell, a former federal appeals court judge nominated by Bush. "It will be interesting to see how many defenders of the right to protest on the public highway outside a military base find excuses to suppress speech on public streets near abortion facilities."