Is it permissible to exercise your free speech rights on issues before a court by picketing or demonstrating in front of the courthouse? If your first blush answer is "of course" then you'll want to read the Department of Justice's brief in the D.C. Circuit, appealing a district court decision overturning a ban on public demonstrations outside the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief asserts that the government has a longstanding and legitimate interest in limiting picketing or demonstrating on the Supreme Court grounds:
It is well established that the government has a legitimate interest in limiting picketing or demonstrating near courthouses. Unlike other parts of government, courts do not make decisions by reference to public opinion. Congress may reasonably enact measures to protect both actual and apparent efforts to influence courts through means other than the orderly presentation of briefing and argument. And Congress may likewise enact measures to protect the order and decorum of the Supreme Court, and to facilitate ingress and egress of employees and visitors to the Court in a manner that comports with that order and decorum.
Come to think of it, does anyone remember demonstrations on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court until recently?
Photo: Steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building, June 26, 2013, hours before the court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act. By Hurricanethink, Wikimedia Commons