An Oregon man flips off some cops. They stop him. Then, he does it again. They stop him again. The man then sues claiming the cops harassed him by stopping him while engaged in free speech. The case settles without a trial paying the man $4,000.00. Protected speech? Certainly. Ridiculous plaintiff? Most probably.
I agree that making a certain infamous hand gesture is free speech. Shoot, any hand gesture is probably protected as free speech by the First Amendment to the Constitution. But for Robert Ekas, I do not think the constitutional question is at issue so much as the personal conduct/gentlemanly behavior issue. Why flip off a bunch of Sheriff’s deputies? What’s the point? My guess is that it was just a way to get national attention including an appearance on The Colbert Report.
Personally, I think Mr. Ekas’ victory (if you can call it that) should be widely celebrated by giving Mr. Ekas the very free speech he holds so dear. So when you see Robert Ekas, make sure to extend your favorite hand, extend that hand’s middle finger, and let us all celebrate what our Founding Fathers must have truly intended with the First Amendment. Let us direct that speech squarely at the man that fought so hard to protect it by taking a $4,000.00 settlement and running rather than trying to establish legal precedent that the “cop flip-off” is protected free speech. That’s definitely the forthright man’s way through the case. (Readers, I hope you’re picking up the sarcasm, because I’m laying it on pretty thick here).
For more on the story, Steve Mayes of The Oregonian writes:
A man who claimed deputies harassed him after he flipped them off has settled a federal lawsuit against Clackamas County.
Robert J. Ekas received $4,000, including $600 for legal costs. Ekas, who lives near Happy Valley, sued the county last year, claiming that deputies violated his free-speech rights and stopped his vehicle without probable cause.
A story earlier this year in The Oregonian brought Ekas national media attention, including radio interviews and an appearance of Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report.”
“We made a business decision. It was cheaper to settle the case than to proceed with litigation,” said Assistant County Counsel Edward S. McGlone III.
Ekas said his decision to settle was based on the county’s informal agreement “to implement a civil rights training program” for Sheriff’s Office employees. “Whether they keep their promise or not is another matter,” Ekas said.
McGlone said the county made no such promise but will offer training on civil rights and First Amendment issues to Sheriff’s Office personnel soon as part of continuing legal education program for law enforcement officers.
Ekas was stopped by deputies in twice in 2007 after he flipped them off. One of the deputies cited Ekas for an illegal lane change and improper display of license plates. He was acquitted.
Ekas sued the Sheriff’s Office and three of its employees, seeking corrective action and unspecified damages.
Ekas claimed the traffic stops were acts of retaliation that violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights. He said his actions were political statements and a protest of police violence against innocent civilians.