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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-25-09 07:37 PM
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12. United States of America v. William Thomas
United States of America v. William Thomas, Appellant
United States of America v. Ellen Thomas, Appellant
United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit. - 864 F.2d 188
Argued Nov. 8, 1988
Decided Dec. 30, 1988

Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Criminal Action Nos. 87-00231-01 and 02) ...

Like the now-legendary "sleeping in the park" case, Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, 468 U.S. 288, 104 S.Ct. 3065, 82 L.Ed.2d 221 (1984), the case before us involves individuals who are seeking by their continuing presence in the park to convey and communicate their sincerely held views about what they perceive to be the most elemental social ills. Two individuals, husband and wife, stand convicted for violation of the applicable Park Service regulations which forbid "camping" in areas including Lafayette Park ...

Park Police Officer Richard DeRiso testified that at approximately 6:00 a.m. on March 22, he observed the Thomases lying in sleeping bags and on blankets, surrounded by clothes. The officer saw no activity and heard sounds that to him resembled snoring. He woke the Thomases, told them that they were violating the camping regulation, and cited them for the violation ...

William Thomas states that his "main, practical purpose is a symbolic purpose to my being , but practically my purpose is that I can be available at all times for clarification of actual reality." (Tr. 252). William Thomas testified that he spent most of his time from March 21 to 26 in the Park, leaving to go to a court appearance and twice to go to the nearby apartment. (Tr. 238). Although both use the apartment for tasks such as cooking, cleaning clothes, using the telephone, and writing, neither testified to sleeping (except inadvertently) or spending significant amounts of time there. William Thomas claimed that "the object of my life is to live without accommodations, and to me <the apartment> is a compromise" ...

Once we conclude, as we have, that the regulation provided fair notice to the Thomases and sufficiently delimited the discretion conferred upon enforcement officers, we are left, then, only with the puzzle of why the Thomases sought to discern the scope of the regulation yet repeatedly ran afoul of it. Without that puzzle, this case would have presented an easier question, and a shorter opinion. The record suggests that the Thomases have always believed that they have not over the years engaged in camping, in some Platonic or Eagle Scouts sense, and that they have in accord with their deeply held religious beliefs given up all accommodations. Therefore, as counsel put it at oral argument, the Thomases view themselves as having, in effect, no living accommodations. Nonetheless, the regulation and its enforcement, as applied to the Thomases, fairly and clearly told them the contrary; it therefore readily passes constitutional muster in its application to them. The Thomases persisted in effectuating their belief, which at day's end amounts to disagreement with the clear import of the regulation as indicated by its language, its enforcement, its interpretation by the district court, and now our reading. It may be unfortunate that the Thomases' deeply felt convictions have led them to persistent behavior running afoul of the clear import of the regulation. That disagreement, in the face of various warnings, perhaps reflects courage, conscience, or tragedy. It manifestly does not reflect, in the regulation as it has been applied, vagueness of constitutional dimension ... /

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