Appellate judges rule Supreme Court can keep protesters off court’s plaza

download (5) Since 1983, the Supreme Court has interpreted the law to allow protests and other displays only on the public sidewalk surrounding the building. But that ruling did not directly consider demonstrations on the large marble plaza between the sidewalk and the court’s main entrance.

Among its reasons for upholding the restrictions, the unanimous three-judge panel said the government has a legitimate interest in dissuading the public from believing that picketing near the courthouse might sway the justices.

“A line must be drawn somewhere along the route from the street to the court’s front entrance. But where?” wrote Judge Sri Srinivasan, who has been mentioned as a potential high court nominee. “Among the options, it is fully reasonable for that line to be fixed at the point one leaves the concrete public sidewalk and enters the marble steps to the court’s plaza.”

The case stems from the 2011 arrest of Harold Hodge Jr., a student who was arrested on the Supreme Court plaza while wearing a sign that criticized police treatment of blacks and Hispanics.

Hodge sued and a federal judge found the law prohibiting access to the plaza to be too broad.

That law makes it a crime to “parade, stand or move in processions or assemblages,” or to displa