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'Insolent' behavior not enough to get you tossed, court says

September 5, 2012 | 12:55 pm

Cotamesa

A Costa Mesa city ordinance that bars speakers at City Council meetings for “insolent” behavior violates free speech rights, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Although it struck down the word “insolent” from the city’s ordinance, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals left intact the rest of the ban on disruptive behavior at council meetings.

The Costa Mesa law permits the city to remove people from the council chambers for “disorderly, insolent or disruptive” behavior. Observing that “insolent” could describe behavior that was not disruptive, the panel found the use of the term unconstitutionally broad.

Among the definitions of “insolent” cited by the court were: proud, disdainful, haughty, arrogant and overbearing. A dissenting judge in the 2-1 decision said the entire ordinance should have been struck down.

The case was brought by an activist who was forcibly removed from the council chambers after protesting a proposed city law on immigration. Although siding with him that Costa Mesa could not bar insolence, the court rejected the activist’s other claims.

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-- Maura Dolan

Photo: Left to right: Jim Righeimer, mayor pro tem; Gary Monahan, mayor; and Wendy Leece, council member, listen to members of the public share their grievances with the City Council at a Costa Mesa budget meeting in May 2011. Credit: Dan Krauss / For The Times

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