LANSING, MI (RNN) - A former law student fought an ordinance used to prohibit him from yelling at a university meter maid - and won.
In a decision released late last month, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an opinion letting the student, now a lawyer, off the hook.
Jared Rapp attended the Michigan State University College of Law in September 2008. During that time, he was involved in an altercation with a parking enforcement employee when his vehicle was improperly parked in a parking structure.
The meter maid called MSU Police during the incident. Officials claimed Rapp reacted aggressively and yelled during the confrontation.
Police charged Rapp with violating a university ordinance, which read, "No person shall disrupt the normal activity or molest the property of any person, firm, or agency while that person, firm, or agency is carrying out service, activity or agreement for or with the university."
As a result, a judge sentenced Rapp to two years of probation, 80 hours of community service, an $873 fine and a mandatory anger management course.
Rapp appealed and represented himself. He argued against the ordinance itself instead of simply appealing his punishment. His case went all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court.
Rapp said the ordinance was written in such a way that it gave law enforcement the broad power to arrest anyone who says something that offends an officer. Consequently, the ordinance could infringe on First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.
To prove his point, Rapp cited the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court case Houston v. Hill, where the Court ruled that a Houston city ordinance similar to the one at MSU was unconstitutional. The Court's decision said police should not be given the power to arrest someone for conduct that personally offends them.
The argument held up after review from the Michigan Supreme Court, with five of the seven justices concurring with Rapp's argument.
The two dissenting justices wrote an opinion saying Houston v. Hill shows the MSU ordinance "reaches less protected expression and presents less danger of compromising First Amendment freedoms than the Houston ordinance."
They also said it was important to recognize the ordinance was adopted by an academic institution.
Rapp told TheNewspaper, a journal focusing on the political issues of driving, that he was pleased with the decision, adding that it was a victory for students everywhere.
"The very wise majority made a big statement by refusing to apply logic that, simply due to a partially 'academic' environment, adults on campus property wherever it may be throughout the state are subject to reduced freedoms," Rapp told TheNewspaper.
By the way, Rapp's parking ticket that sparked the whole ordeal was dismissed at trial.
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