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Welcome to the OC, (expletive)!

welcomeOC.jpgA Riverside, California woman has filed a lawsuit against Orange County, as well as the county sheriff and two two sheriff’s deputies. She’s claiming that her free speech rights have been violated, and is seeking to have a county law ruled unconstitutional.

Last August, Elizabeth Venable was at the OC airport (the wonderfully named John Wayne Airport which is, in comparison to its LAX big brother up north, a relative pleasure of an airport). The UC-Riverside grad student was chatting with a friend and apparently uttered some profanities while near some kids. Deputies told her to keep quiet, to which she responded by asking: “Is it against the (expletive) law to say (expletive)?”

(It’s like a MadLib! I’m going with “horny” and “rectum booger.” Is it against the horny law to say rectum booger? Tee-hee.)

Anyway, the deputies responded by saying something along the lines of “why yes, it just does happen to be against the expletive law.” She’s since been charged with a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct under a law banning “disorderly, obnoxious and indecent act[s].” The matter is set for arraignment later this month.

A local con-law professor says that her federal case may be a sinker because “[f]reedom of speech does not cover obscenities.” Well I say that’s bullshit!

| Comments (1)


Maybe its been too long since I took Con Law, but didn't Harlan state in Cohen v. California that "one man's vulgarity is another's lyric"? 403 U.S. 15, 25 (1971). Maybe things have changed since then (Westlaw didn't seem to think so) but my understanding was that obscenities (the "f-word" was at issue in Cohen) can be protected speech. Harlan continued that "the Constitution leaves matters of taste and style so largely to the individual."

Interestingly, I believe there is a city ordinance in Baltimore (where I am) that one may not utter obscenities in the presence of a woman. This could raise an interesting equal protection argument for the man or the woman. Since, if a woman says it, obscenities are always banned!