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US District Court Says – No Singing in Post Office

May 14, 2015 by The Sawaya Law Firm

No music

We’ve all been in line at the Post Office, and we’ve all thought of countless ways to pass the interminable time. And while singing in public may lighten your mood, it is not a protected constitutional right.

So says an appeals court in dismissing a lawsuit filed by a U.S. Postal Service customer who was asked to leave after he refused to stop singing.

Erik Watkins claimed in his lawsuit that a postal employee denied his request to purchase a mailbox after he refused to stop singing what he described as an anti-gay song by reggae artist Buju Banton in February 2014, according to Monday’s ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta in Eric Watkins v. United States Postal Employee.

Mr. Watkins filed suit, claiming he is entitled to $50,000 in damages from the postal employee for a willful violation of his First Amendment rights and the resulting “psychological injury” of “fear, anxiety and embarrassment,” according to the appeals court ruling.

The U.S. District Court in Miami granted the postal employee’s motion to dismiss the case, and a three-judge panel unanimously upheld the ruling. “Refusing service to a disruptive customer does not violate any clearly established and obvious federal law,” according the ruling. “There is no support for the assertion that Watkins had a First Amendment right to sing any sort of song in the post office lobby while standing in the service line.”

“The First Amendment’s guarantees have never meant that ‘people who want to propagandize protests or views have a constitutional right to do so whenever and however and wherever they please,'” said the ruling in quoting an earlier case.


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