Judge Rules for Woman Prohibited From Displaying Pro-Life Sign
by Steven Ertelt
December 16, 2003
Denver, CO (LifeNews.com) — A federal judge has ruled in favor of a Denver woman who was prohibited from displaying a pro-life sign on a street’s pedestrian overpass to educate drivers about abortion. The woman said Denver police wrongfully prevented her from displaying the sign.
Wendy Faustin and others displayed signs that read "Abortion Kills Children" once a month on a freeway overpass. They started in 1997 and eventually received a citation in August 1998.
In a ruling issued Monday, U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham said that police were wrong to fine Faustin for displaying the signs and that not allowing her to do so was unconstitutional.
Denver police tried to stop Faustin at least four times, with officers on one occasion thumbing through a city manual in search of a law Faustin might have broken. They couldn’t find one.
The police finally cited Faustin for violating a city law against posting signs on public property: But that charge was dismissed because Faustin didn’t attach the banner to the overpass; she simply held it.
The police later said Faustin had violated a state law against outdoor advertising that might distract drivers. But Nottingham said the law is too broad and too vague.
Nottingham asked the city to strike the anti-sign rule from the books and to pay Faustin $1 in damages.
Nottingham originally sided with Faustin and the police department appealed the ruling. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Nottingham and sent the case back to him to complete.
Faustin told the Associated Press she was happy with the ruling, but said she continued to put up her pro-life signs while the case was in courts and police haven’t bothered her since the case was originally filed.
Before she filed the lawsuit, Faustin gave up holding the banner for several months for fear Denver police would charge her with a crime. That restraint shows the police department had chilled her First Amendment right to free expression, Nottingham said.
He said a public sidewalk such as the one on the overpass traditionally has been considered a forum where members of the public have a constitutional right to express their opinions.