Superior Court and Its Employees’ Free Speech Rights

Two Superior Court employees filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming their constitutional rights of free speech and equal access had been denied when they were forced to stop using a vacant courtroom for their lunchtime Bible study group.

The court recently developed a policy requiring individuals and groups who wanted to use court facilities to file an application. When Mindy Barlow and Dalia Smith, both employees of the Superior Court, submitted their application for a room for their Bible study group, their request was denied. Barlow said the stated reason was that approving their application would violate the separation of church and state.

The ACLU was not asked by either party in the suit to lend legal support and has reviewed only the complaint that was recently filed. But David Blair-Loy, Legal Director for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties said that Barlow appears to have a strong case.

“If the government is not endorsing or sponsoring the study of the Bible, and if other groups have access to court facilities that the plaintiffs have been denied, it sounds like they have a potentially winning case,” Blair-Loy said.

A spokesperson for the San Diego Superior Court said they believe that their policy for evaluating requests for use of court facilities is sound.