Citation. 447 U.S. 925; 100 S. Ct. 3019;65 L. Ed. 2d 1118; 1980 U.S
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Brief Fact Summary.
The Petitioner, a group of Students from Florida A&M University including Adderley (Petitioner), were arrested and convicted for trespass when they demonstrated on the grounds of a Florida jail.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The right of public entities to protect their property from trespass can override a First Amendment constitutional claim if it is performed with justification and without discrimination.
The Petitioners demonstrated against the arrests of another group of protesting students the day before and against practices of racial segregation including segregation of the jail. The Petitioners were warned that if they did not leave they would be promptly arrested. After refusing to leave, the Petitioners were arrested and later convicted by a Florida state court on grounds of criminal trespass.
Whether conviction of the Petitioners unconstitutionally deprives Petitioners of their rights to freedom of speech, press, assembly or petition?
No, the sheriff, as jail custodian, had the power to direct the Petitioners off the grounds. There was no evidence in this case that the sheriff removed the Petitioners because he objected to what was being said by the demonstrators. Rather, the evidence of the case shows that the sheriff objected only to the Petitioners’ presence on the land reserved for jail use. The Respondent, the state of Florida (Respondent), has the same power as a private owner to preserve the property under its control for the use for which it is lawfully dedicated. The United States Constitution (Constitution) does not forbid a State to control the use of its own property for its own lawful non-discriminatory purpose.
The jailhouse is a governmental entity and when it houses political prisoners or those who many think are unjustly held it is an obvious center for protest and therefore it is unjust in regards to the First Amendment of the Constitution to allow a petition for redress of grievances to be turned into a trespass action.
The majority argues that public property has the same trespass protection as private property. Therefore, since the Petitioners were not arrested on grounds related to their protests, they have no claim under violation of their First Amendment rights to protest.