The free-speech right to protest against the president does not guarantee that opponents can be as close to the chief executive as supporters, the Supreme Court said Tuesday, throwing out a suit brought by critics of former President
Instead, the justices said
The decision is one of several in which the high court has turned away claims that the Bush
In Tuesday's opinion for a unanimous court, Justice
The decision tosses out a lawsuit brought by the
Two groups had assembled. One was made up of supporters, and a second group, numbering about 200, were opponents who carried signs critical of Bush and his policies. When the president sat down in the dining area, the protesters could be heard from just a half-block away. Secret Service agents decided to move the group of opponents two blocks away. This removed a potential threat from someone firing a gun or tossing an explosive, the agents said later.
But the group of supporters stayed nearby, and they could be seen by the president as his motorcade left the restaurant.
Several of the protesters joined a lawsuit against the Secret Service, alleging agents violated the 1st Amendment by denying them "equal access to the president."
A federal judge in Oregon and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco cleared the suit to proceed. Those judges said the agents had placed the protesters at a "comparative disadvantage in expressing their views."
But the Supreme Court disagreed in a case called Wood vs. Moss and said agents had violated no clearly understood constitutional right.
"No decision of which we are aware would alert Secret Service agents engaged in crowd control that they bear a 1st Amendment obligation to ensure that groups with different viewpoints are at comparable locations at all times," Ginsburg said.