Oakland Pro-Life Activist Expected to Plead Not Guilty in Free Speech Case
by Steven Ertelt
June 11, 2008
Oakland, CA (LifeNews.com) — A pro-life advocate who filed a lawsuit against the city of Oakland saying its new law limiting abortion protests is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech, is expected to be charged under the law and enter a not guilty plea in a hearing today.
Fifty-one year-old Walter Hoye filed suit against Oakland officials saying the expanded 8-foot bubble zone they approved unfairly limits the free speech of pro-life people.
The new ordinance makes it unlawful, and punishable by up to one year in jail, to go within that distance of an abortion business unless heading there for an abortion.
Hoye has become the first person charged with violating the law in April and May after the city council unanimously approved the law in February.
Hoye’s attorney, Michael Millen, told the Alameda Times-Star newspaper that Hoye would plead not guilty and "vigorously defend" him from the misdemeanor accusations.
Millen said he filed an amended complaint in federal court on Friday saying the Oakland ordinance tramples Hoye’s free speech rights because it doesn’t uphold "viewpoint neutrality" in enforcing the bubble law.
"The Oakland Police Department has an unwritten policy exempting … any person who approaches and speaks to clients for the purposes of encouraging them to use clinic services," the complaint says, according to the newspaper.
"That same unwritten policy holds that (Hoye) is to be arrested if he approaches and speaks to clients for the purposes of encouraging them to choose options other than utilizing clinic services," it adds.
Millen told the paper, "It’s a double standard. It’s called viewpoint discrimination and it’s unconstitutional."
City Attorney John Russo’s office says Millen’s arguments are off base and will defend the law in court.
In December, Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District advised the city on how to make the law conform with prior Supreme Court rulings.
The city approved a new ordinance but Millen contends it is still unconstitutional.