The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a new regulation barring most demonstrations on the plaza in front of the courthouse.
The regulation did not significantly alter the court’s longstanding restrictions on protests on its plaza. It appeared, rather, to be a reaction to a decision issued Tuesday by a federal judge, which narrowed the applicability of a 1949 federal law barring “processions or assemblages” or the display of “a flag, banner or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice a party, organization or movement” in the Supreme Court building or on its grounds.
The law was challenged by Harold Hodge Jr., a student from Maryland who was arrested in 2011 on the Supreme Court plaza for wearing a large sign protesting police mistreatment of blacks and Hispanics. [...]
The regulation issued Thursday, which the court said was “approved by the chief justice of the United States,” requires visitors to “maintain suitable order and decorum within the Supreme Court building and grounds.” It bars demonstrations, which it defines as “picketing, speech making, marching, holding vigils or religious services and all other like forms of conduct that involve the communication or expression of views or grievances, engaged in by one or more persons, the conduct of which is reasonably likely to draw a crowd or onlookers.” [...]
John W. Whitehead, the president of the Rutherford Institute, which represents Mr. Hodge, said the new regulation was disturbing.
“Facing a fine or imprisonment because one man demonstrates in front of the Supreme Court,” he said, “is repugnant to the First Amendment.”