DISTRIBUTING FIJA LITERATURE IN FRONT OF COURTHOUSES
FIJA activists frequently stand out in front of courthouses, or in the juror's parking lot, and
distribute FIJA brochures to all passersby. The best time to be there is when the whole jury
pool is first assembled (often on Monday mornings; be there bright and early). At this time
they are not official jurors, and the authorities are less likely to hassle you.
FIJA activists should make it clear that they are only passing out information of general
interest to all jurors, and not trying to influence any particular case. FIJA literature, which
informs jurors of their rights and powers in general terms and which seeks reform of the judicial
process, is protected speech under the first amendment. If other people present are passing out
literature protesting the case or cases which happen to being going on inside, fine. It is their
right to protest, and the sidewalk is a traditional public forum for first amendment purposes.
(U.S. v. Grace et al, 461 U.S., 1983)
Literature distribution is most effective if you dress neatly and conservatively, smile, and are
polite. A FIJA button in your lapel would also be appropriate.
Thousands of people have now distributed FIJA literature at courthouses, the vast majority
without any trouble. Although a few people have been hassled, some even arrested, we have
rarely had anyone convicted of anything for passing out FIJA brochures. One conviction was
for disobeying a court injunction to cease literature distribution (this is being appealed at this
time). If you are facing contempt charges for violating an injunction, as things stand now, you
do not get a trial by a jury of your peers; instead, a judge decides if you are "guilty". Another
arrest and conviction was for refusing to cease literature distribution and leave the interior of
a courthouse (also being appealed).
Usually when the authorities decide there is not much they can actually do to stop brochure
distribution, they stumble over themselves in their haste to dismiss charges or otherwise back
down. Perhaps they come to realize that prosecuting you for jury tampering will mean giving
FIJA brochures to your jury as evidence... and they realize that distributing
political/informational brochures in a public place is a clearly protected first amendment right.
In addition, prosecutions are liable to generate a great deal of local media interest and exposure
for FIJA's message--and this is the last thing judges and prosecutors want!
You're more likely to encounter trouble if you insist on distributing brochures inside the
courthouse, but it has been done successfully. In any case, if the powers that be react at all,
expect them to warn you first and ask that you leave. Some of our activists have refused to
leave because they were trying to be arrested, but couldn't induce an arrest. And some
"arresting authorities" are now facing civil suits brought by FIJA supporters.