Collins Trespassing Case Advances

Erstwhile House of Delegates candidate Rich Collins got what he was looking for in court yesterday: a trespassing conviction, Liesel Nowak reports in today’s Daily Progress. Collins was arrested for trespass for campaigning on private property in mid-May, leading to his civil suit against the property owner, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the Rutherford Institute in his case.

His criminal conviction is required in order for him to appeal the case up to the Virginia Supreme Court, the only state court that can set new precedent in the matter, hence his happiness at being convicted by Judge Stephen Helvin. The judge believes it likely that the court of last appeal would rule against Collins, but added: “If I were on the Supreme Court, I’d rule in your favor.” Helvin confessed that he’d thought the case would be an easy one, but that upon consideration, he found himself favoring Collins. “It’s not an easy issue. For someone born in the shadow of Monticello, this is one time I wouldn’t mind going up to talk to the guy on the hill.”

9 thoughts on “Collins Trespassing Case Advances”

  1. Collins Trespassing Case Advances
    I won’t call losing advancing but if the point of the suit isn’t advancing to the Supreme Court. The point is to change the current law. Score so far: Collins 0 shopping center 1.

  2. perlogik, the circuit court isn’t capable of changing the law. They’re not a court of record. Also, this is the criminal case, not the civil case — the shopping center didn’t win, the government did.

  3. I know the local court can’t change law. That isn’t even what I implied. The reason Collinns has gone this far is he believes the law is wrong. If you want to use “advances” it is clear that change of the law is what your advancing toward.
    The reason for the score is that the shopping center did win When there is a civil trial, Collin’s conviction will be used against him. The law is used to protect the shopping center. The state interest, is in this case, is defending the shopping centers rights to who can solict. In that respect the shopping center has retain that right, they have won.

  4. Wait a minute, has been married for this short time already gotten you into to “Yes Dear” mode. This is indeed troubling ;)

  5. I know it’s probably been hashed out on other thread’s relating to this issue, but I’m going to put my 2 cents here anyway.

    I understand the need and benefit of those running for elected office to have, and be able to, meet and greet those that might vote for them. I think it’s important that those who would run for office be able to get out and tell the public who they are. That face to face interaction in high foot traffic areas is especially important for any candidate, of limited financial resources, to be able to make themselves known to the public. Running for office shouldn’t just be something only for the financially affluent.

    That said, for purposes of commercial real estate such as Shoppers World, I’d be more inclined to give the right to say “who stand’s in front of the store” to the business owner- Be it Whole Food’s, Staples or one of the smaller mom and pop type of businesses (which is not necessarily the property owner or the property management company). It is their livelyhood that may or may not be impacted by such solicitation.

    Now in further consideration of the issue, the ACLU website lists the lawsuit as this: “ACLU Asks Virginia Court to Allow Political Expression at Shopping Centers”. Please note: “Political Expression”. Where are you going to draw the line? Using an extreme example, Anti-abortion protests are a form of “political expression.” With a change in the law wouldn’t these sort of groups try to use the ruling to once again be able to carry their protests to the front of those sorts of businesses?

    And let us not forget Christians, the vocal majority which still believe themselves to be a persecuted minority. Won’t they want equal access? The combination of the Republican Party with Christian Right has pretty much turned “Religious Speech” into “Political Expression.”

    Can the courts define it so narrowly and specifically to only “Candidates seeking elected office” and not to those special interest groups campaigning on their behalf? Or other forms of Political Expression?

    Of course if the complaint is alleging unequal enforcement of the prohibitions against political speech (which I think a certian part of it could be read that way) then that’s a different issue entirely.

    And then there are the issues of popular and unpopular speech, and perceptions of a Right not to be offended in a public space. At this point I think I’ve written far more than I intended so I’ll conclude it here. Anyway it’s something else to think about. :)

  6. Your $0.02 are appreciated. :)

    This is a hairy issue — there are some who have their minds made up on it, and I envy them. I don’t even know what’s right or wrong in a legal sense, least of all what I think is right or wrong here.

    I’m all for more people describing their thoughts on the matter.

  7. I consider this to be a conflict of rights: property rights versus free speech. And frankly, I’d rather this weren’t even an issue. I’m not comfortable with private interests enjoying an effective monopoly on “public” space, but welcome to America. Since private interests do control the vast majority of useful semi-public space, they enjoy an enormous control over the public discourse. Which they generally use to silence public discourse. As far as overall societal good, it seems like free speech is much better than the ability of property owners inviting public access to silence it. If people are breaking laws or physically preventing access to the establishment, then fine, ask them to leave. Otherwise, let them be. Property owners could consider it a patriotic act to provide a forum for the free exchange of ideas, bolstering democracy, enriching our society, and allowing the free flow of important information. I’d like to see some sort of pledge for semi-public property owners to take to preserve and protect freedom of expression, call it the Jefferson Free Speech Pledge. “I pledge to preserve and protect freedom of speech on my property, so long as visitors do not break any laws or physically prevent access to my establishment.” Something like that.

  8. In the worst days of Operation Rescue, I did clinic defense. This involved getting to women’s health clinics at 4am and being a human shield with scores of others — all to keep OR’s free speech right from infringing upon patients’ rights to actually procure needed healthcare. This all hinging on how people can use public sidewalks.

    At the moment, several major conservative groups are boycotting “American Girl” dolls. Why? Because the company gives money to a non-profit organization that promotes such nefarious activities as math skills in 8-12 year old girls — alas, the organization also lists on its website that it “supports a woman’s right to choose” and has a referral service for girls who want to talk about their sexual orientation. Can’t have that, can we?

    A Free Speech Pledge sounds swell, but it’s ineffective against extremists of any persuasion. The Eric Rudolphs and Michael Fortiers of our culture will still bomb things they don’t like. And the Randall Terrys will still block access to things they don’t like. I think we all need these people to stay on the public sidewalk — that’s close enough.

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