Monday, July 30, 2012

State Supreme Court: Ticketed MSU Student Cannot be Charged

Story first reported from Detroit Free Press
LANSING -- A Michigan State University ordinance that led to the conviction of a student who confronted a parking employee over a ticket was ruled unconstitutional Friday by the state Supreme Court.
In the 5-2 decision, the court said that the ordinance "criminalizes a substantial amount of constitutionally protected speech."
The case stems from a 2008 incident in a campus parking ramp. Jared Rapp's Land Rover was ticketed for parking in a space with an expired meter, but Rapp said the meter hadn't yet expired.
Rapp, who has since graduated with a law degree and now is a practicing attorney in Illinois, approached the parking enforcement employee, Ricardo Rego, and demanded that Rego tell him his name, but Rego refused. Rego said he believed Rapp was acting in an aggressive manner, according to court documents. Rapp also stood outside Rego's pickup and took photographs of him with a cell phone.
The ticket eventually was dismissed. But a jury in 54B District Court convicted Rapp of violating a university ordinance that says, "No person shall disrupt the normal activity" of a university employee in completing an assigned task.
The high court's majority opinion said the ordinance's language allows it to be enforced against anyone.
"The MSU ordinance could be violated numerous times throughout any given day, given that there are seemingly infinite ways in which someone might 'disrupt' another who is engaged in an 'activity' for or with MSU," Justice Diane Hathaway said in writing for the majority.
Justices Brian Zahra and Stephen Markman dissented, saying they were not convinced that the ordinance presented "a realistic danger of significantly compromising First Amendment freedoms."
Rapp's attorney, Nick Bostic, has said that Rapp -- who had served on a committee that addressed parking issues -- knew that when tickets were challenged, the university would not necessarily send the employee who wrote the ticket to the hearing. The university, Bostic said, was not disclosing that practice. That's why Rapp was adamant about learning Rego's name

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