LANSING, Mich. (Dawson Bell, Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau) - A former Michigan State University student who shouted at an MSU parking enforcement officer after he got a ticket cannot be criminally prosecuted because the university ordinance prohibiting such behavior is overly broad, a divided Michigan Supreme Court has ruled.
The court, in an opinion released this afternoon, said the ordinance unconstitutionally impaired free speech rights because it could be applied "against anyone who disrupts in any way anyone carrying out any activity for or with MSU."
Jared Rapp, now 29, was charged with a misdemeanor after he reacted to a parking ticket in Sept. 2008 by assailing the parking officer. According to court records, the officer retreated to his vehicle, called for help, then sat in his vehicle until police arrived.
While he was waiting, Rapp stood outside the vehicle and photographed him with his mobile phone.
The court majority, Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. and Justices Michael Cavanagh, Marilyn Kelly, Mary Beth Kelly and Diane Hathaway, said the MSU ordinance was unconstitutional under a U.S. Supreme Court decision which overturned a Texas statute prohibiting conduct which interrupted law enforcement officers.
Dissenting were Justices Stephen Markman and Brian Zahra. In the dissent, Zahra said, "I am...not convinced that the ordinance presents a realistic danger of significantly compromising First Amendment freedoms."
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