274 A.2d 897 (Conn.Cir.A.D. 1971), State v. Anonymous (1971-2)

Citation:274 A.2d 897, 6 Conn.Cir.Ct. 372
Opinion Judge:JACOBS, Judge. KOSICKI, J., concurred in the result. CASALE, Judge (concurring).
Party Name:STATE of Connecticut v. ANONYMOUS (1971-2) [*] (six cases).
Judge Panel:KOSICKI, J., concurred in the result.
Court:Circuit Court of Connecticut

Page 897

274 A.2d 897 (Conn.Cir.A.D. 1971)

6 Conn.Cir.Ct. 372

STATE of Connecticut

v.

ANONYMOUS (1971-2) [*] (six cases).

Circuit Court of Connecticut, Appellate Division.

Page 898

JACOBS, Judge.

Following a jury trial, the defendants were convicted of the offense of picketing a residence, a misdemeanor (General Statutes § 1-1), in violation of § 31-120, 1 and have appealed.

These cases present issues arising out of a nonlabor picketing controversy. Several errors are raised on behalf of the defendants on this appeal, but the only one we deem it necessary to consider is the challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to support the judgments.

[6 Conn.Cir.Ct. 373] The finding 2 recites that '(t)he State and the defendants agree that there is no dispute about the facts.' The defendants are members of a voluntary association called the Coalition of Concerned Citizens. This coalition is organizationally and functionally different from its labor counterpart. It has no formidable institutional backing, its membership is not cohesive, and it has no permanent, well-paid personnel. It does not seek vast across-the-board concessions from management, such as job security, higher pay, shorter hours or longer vacations. The participants in a voluntary association such as this share no highly integrated front motivated by economic gain; quite to the contrary, they band together on an issue-to-issue basis. In short, this coalition is a small but active coterie of interested citizens with few resources and little time, but possessing an immediate objective. The coalition has at various times been critical of a particular agency. Its disagreement with the agency has from time to time been publicized by means of the radio, newspapers, television and the public media generally.

Dissatisfied with the progress of the agency, the defendants, after having sought and obtained legal advice, made a peaceful and orderly march in front of the private residence of the head of the agency. The style of the protest is worth noting. It was a loosely structured ceremonial protest; it was not intimidation or coercion. The protest symbolized a deeply felt grievance. Its essential appeal was to public opinion. The defendants believed that 'this [6 Conn.Cir.Ct. 374] was the only way to bring to the attention of the general public the conditions under which certain people lived in the city and in the ghetto and poor areas.' A time was decided upon by the group as the most appropriate date and time for the march in order 'to get as much information out to as many people as possible, and to provide

Page 899

television coverage of the demonstration, and to allow people who worked to join the group in the demonstration.' The demonstration was not for the purpose of direct confrontation; rather, 'the primary purpose was to get across * * * ideas * * * to the general public.' The finding that the defendants were at all times orderly and peaceable, that there was no unlawful obstruction of the highway, and that they did not impede the free ingress and egress of persons going to or coming from the private residence is fully supported by the evidence. The activity of the defendants was a from of protest, not disturbance nor disorder.

On the day in question, the chief of police observed a group of about fifty people gathered at a corner. He thereupon addressed the gathering with a bullhorn, advising them that residential picketing was a violation of state law. At this point a majority of the group dispersed, but 'the six named defendants proceeded' and 'marched in front of * * * (the) residence in single file, up and down, * * * carrying placards.' The chief of police gave the marchers a second warning. They refused to disperse. They stood on what they deemed to be their constitutional rights. Their arrest followed. So far as is disclosed by the record, no person complained to the police.

I

Residential picketing 'is a constitutionally colored activity-it partakes of the rights of speech, assembly and petition.' Comment, 'Picketing the Homes [6 Conn.Cir.Ct. 375] of Public Officials,' 34 U.Chi.L.Rev. 106, 140. In New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 270, 84 S.Ct. 710, 11 L.Ed.2d 686, the court endorsed the policy that debate on public issues should be 'uninhibited, robust, and wideopen.' At the same time, the Supreme Court of the United States has crystallized the principle, both in its opinions and in the denial of writs of certiorari, that first amendment rights are not absolute at all times and under all circumstances. See Adderley v. Florida, 385 U.S. 39, 47, 87 S.Ct. 242, 17 L.Ed.2d 149; Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 554, 85 S.Ct. 453, 13 L.Ed.2d 471; People v. Turner, 48 Misc.2d 611, 265 N.Y.S.2d 841, aff'd, 17 N.Y.2d 829, 271 N.Y.S.2d 274, 218 N.E.2d 316, dismissed as improvidently granted, 386 U.S. 773, 87 S.Ct. 1417, 18 L.Ed.2d 522. But in order to petition the government for a redress of grievances, 'the picketers' claim to the streets is a powerful one, predicated not only on the fact that they are engaged in activity involving the expression of political ideas, but also on the nature of the streets as a traditional public forum.' Comment, supra, 125. 'Wherever the title of streets and parks may rest, they have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions. Such use of the streets and public places has, from ancient times, been a part of the privileges, immunities, rights, and liberties of citizens.' Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization, 307 U.S....

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