Air show case to be heard at MU

The idea to hold the hearings on campus came from an MU adjunct law professor.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:29 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

Law students and community members will have the opportunity to listen to oral arguments in a free-speech case against the city of Columbia on Sept. 30.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs, Bill Wickersham and Maureen Doyle, and defendants, the city of Columbia and Salute to Veterans Corp., will hold a hearing before District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey in the courtroom at the MU law school to present supplemental arguments before the judge.

The idea for the hearing came from adjunct law professor Peggy Gustafson, who said she contacted Laughrey last month to ask if she had any hearings that would be of interest to her law students. The judge told her about the case and offered to hear the oral arguments at the law school, Gustafson said.

“I want them to really see what it’s like to argue before a judge,” she said. “It will give them insight into the way the court operates.”

In March, Wickersham and Doyle filed a lawsuit against the city and the organization for the right to petition and distribute leaflets at the Salute to Veterans Corp.’s annual air show.

Marilyn Teitelbaum, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the lawsuit was filed against the city of Columbia to get it to change its policy banning First Amendment activities of any nature from the air show. The plaintiffs argued that because the event is held in a public place and the financial support the air show receives is from the city, state, and federal government, First Amendment rights activists should be allowed at the event.

A preliminary injunction from the judge granted the plaintiffs the right to protest, distribute leaflets and wear clothing with free-speech expression, but it did now allow them to petition.

At the hearing, the judge will listen to oral arguments from the plaintiffs, who will be pushing for a permanent injunction that would give them the right to petition and distribute leaflets, as well as the right to protest. Robert Krehbiel, the city’s attorney, refused to comment.

The hearings, which will be held in conjunction with pretrial litigation, will begin at noon Sept. 30 in Hulston Hall. It will be open to the public.

Under Laughrey’s direction, the plaintiffs will have 20 minutes to present their arguments while the defendants will have 15 minutes each. The plaintiffs will then have 10 minutes for a rebuttal.

Wickersham said he was pleased with the judge’s decision to hold the hearings at the law school.

“One of the most important parts of the United States is the Constitution,” he said. “So when there’s is a disagreement over its provisions, it is important that students, academics and the community have an opportunity to learn more about it.”

Although both plaintiffs will be present at the event, Wickersham said they would not be speaking.

“We’ve already said our piece,” he said.

“It’s just time for the judge to make a decision.”

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