The state of Utah has settled its second suit brought by a local animal rights group, challenging its policies when it comes to the right to protest at the State Capitol.
The move comes after members of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition filed a federal suit against the state when two of its members were told by Capitol security they could not hold signs in protest on the second floor of the Capitol outside the doors to the House of Representatives. Last March, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against the state, finding that the state's policies regarding protests violated the First Amendment's right of free speech.
Attorney Brian Barnard, who represents UARC, said the state has settled the suit. The state has agreed to pay $250 for each of the two protesters, $500 for UARC and $9,000 in attorney's fees and court costs.
This is the second time the state has settled a federal suit filed by UARC. In 2006, the group sued after two of its members were barred from handing out leaflets at the Capitol. That case was settled for $12,500 and prompted the Capitol Preservation Board to revamp its rules and allow leafletting.
Recently House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, and Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, who sit on the preservation board, both said the board's rules need to be updated to permit spontaneous protests within the Capitol as long as they do not interfere with the business of lawmakers.Barnard remains skeptical. "If I were a betting man, I'd bet at least a dollar that the new and improved rules for protests and demonstration at and in the State Capitol will not be constitutional and will embody the Legislature's continuing disdain for the great unwashed," he said.