Federal District Judge Cameron Currie today upheld an order that allows protestors to stay on Statehouse grounds overnight. Gov. Nikki Haley had Occupy Columbia arrested based on “an internal policy and set of conditions that was not specific, according to Judge Curry, who said the state has a way to fix that with creating an official regulation or statute and that has not been done in the months since the protests began.
Instead, attorneys for the governor and the Budget and Control Board had the lawsuit against them moved to federal court. South Carolina Radio Network’s Ashley Byrd spoke with Kevin Hall, attorney for the Gov. Haley, right after the ruling.
Byrd: Are you going to appeal?
Hall: No, right now we’re talking about whether the governor will work with her colleagues on the Budget and Control Board to issue a regulation or a restriction on camping and on sleeping as was invited by the court here and I think you’ll see that happen in short order.
Byrd: Why hasn’t that happened so far? I’m sure that came up in investigating your case.
Hall: I think you’ve got a set of restrictions in place that clearly prohibit being there and camping and sleeping. But what the governor and the Budget Control Board will do will be to go back and fine tune that. The key holding from the court today is that camping and sleeping on the Statehouse grounds can be restricted. Of course, that is what the governor said at the beginning and throughout and what we’ll see is that take place here in very short order. So, folks will be able to express themselves completely and fully and at the same time the safety and aesthetics of the Statehouse grounds will be maintained and that’s the right balance.
Byrd: Does this mean that you won’t appeal, that you’ll go this other route?
Hall: I’m not going to say we won’t. As I stand here, we literally just walked out of the courthouse. I’m not going to tell you definitively no, we want to reserve that option.”
Byrd: Today, you said you sidestepped the question about camping being constitutional or being protected speech. Did you not want to broach more First Amendment arguments today? You didn’t make a whole bunch of them.
Hall: Are you a lawyer?
Byrd: Dangerously close.
Hall: Alright. Here’s the question posed by the court: is camping or sleeping itself expressive – is that speech? And you have courts going different ways on that. The reason that we (he and Judge Currie) were teasing each other back and forth on that point is that we don’t need to answer that question to deal with the issues that are presented here and so we didn’t answer that question. I can tell you that reasonable people have differences of opinion on that and different courts disagree on that, so there is a variety of opinion on that and I am not expressing one.”
Byrd: Why did you switch venues, then, this is more of a constitutional argument venue, so why did you switch?
Hall: There are a variety of reasons. We made the judgement that the best place for each of the defendants have the issues addressed from their perspective was to do it here in federal court and on that basis, we moved. very routine. What you see is 1983 actions in state court go to federal court very frequently, pretty much the norm. You see more often federal constitutional issues litigated in the federal courts, so what we did was pretty normal.