WBTS Loses Recent 2005 Federal District Court Case In Puerto Rico

by West70 25 Replies latest jw friends

  • West70

    Just found this:

    Puerto Rico
    29 P.R. Laws Ann. 63 -- 64h (Controlled Access Law)

    Puerto Rico's Controlled Access Law, enacted in 1987, and amended in 1992, was aimed at helping communities control crime. Under the Act, residential neighborhoods could exert some measure of control over vehicular and pedestrian traffic so long as they did not contain certain specified public facilities, or if they did not constitute thoroughfares necessary for travel between one community and another. This was generally achieved by erecting a fence or barrier where an access point used to be, effectively closing it off, and instead leaving one or two operative entrances to the neighborhood, usually manned by a guard. When a non-resident pedestrian or vehicle wished to enter the neighborhood, the guard was reached via intercom. The guard could record such information as could be ascertained by plain sight (time of entry and exit, make and model of the vehicle driven, and the license plate number of the vehicle).The guard could ask the visitor for his intended destination or the purpose of the visit. If the purpose was to see a particular resident, the guard could ask for and record the name of the visitor, but only when the resident had given the authorization to do so. Failure to adequately provide an answer to this inquiry was deemed a sufficient basis for denying the visitor's entry. The records were used to assist the police in investigating crimes committed in the area. Plaintiff's the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York and a local Jehovah's Witnesses congregation claimed, inter alia, that their members, wishing to engage in religious ministry, had been denied entrance into gated communities; had been directed to leave neighborhoods; had been threatened with, and even subject to, criminal charges; and had even been prevented from speaking to individuals on public streets and from engaging in door-to-door ministry in communities where they themselves were residents. After holding that plaintiffs had associational standing to sue on behalf of their members in federal court and had established a cognizable case and controversy, the district court held that the Act did not facially violate the First Amendment rights to free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association, and free exercise of religion, or the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, or the constitutional right to travel and freedom of movement. However, the court refused to dismiss the "as applied" challenges to the Act. To make such a determination prior to discovery would be premature given the underdeveloped nature of the factual record in the case Case # 2034 (D. P.R.)


  • willyloman

    There are many local laws that go unchallenged by the WTS because they don't want to lose one and have it impact their "work" elsewhere. In this case, one suspects there was little to lose. JWs are banned from gated communities all over the US already. Perhaps that explains why they challenged it; a win there might have opened up access to gated communities in other areas of the country. Our entire region in Southern California is largely gated now and most new subdivisions come with gated access. Even some existing neighborhoods are erecting gates. So the territory is ever shrinking.

    I like to think the gates are a direct result of JW "preaching."

  • pr_capone

    Good on my people to not bend over and take it from the WTBTS!

    Oye Boricua!

    Kansas District Overbeer

  • Oroborus21


    Not sure from this thread whether this was en banc or a full court decision. If the U.S. Supreme Court hears an appeal though it will be another win for Jehovah's Witnesses.

    The law violates many free speech activities including polling, political campaigning, petition drives, charitable solicitation, etc.

    -Eduardo Leaton Jr., Esq.

  • West70

    I should have made these comments a day or so ago, because I am not feeling well this morning. My mind is sluggish, and this topic is very complex.

    Watchtower Watchers will want to keep an eye on the inevitable future proceedings of this Puerto Rico Case, as well as look for any similar ongoing cases, because the issue is much larger than this single case.

    I actually was led to WATCHTOWER v. RAMOS after trying to get back up to speed on WBTS legal matters and first running across VIRGINIA v. HICKS. In the HICKS case, the WBTS filed an Amicus Curiae Brief with SCOTUS as a "friend" of Hicks. SCOTUS ruled 9-0 against Hicks, who then also lost the remanded trial at the Virginia Supreme Court level.

    Both HICKS and RAMOS relate to the recent phenomenon of "local governments" granting other local entities possession and/or control of what is or was public property; usually in an attempt to fight crime in crime-ridden neighborhoods (apartment complexes, single family dwelling neighborhoods, etc.). The resulting legal issues can be extremely complex, and appear to be somewhat unique for each individual instance.

    This phenonenon is a legal headache for the WBTS. It is established law in the U.S. that while private property owners and tenants may generally prohibit JWs from entering onto their private property, state and local governments may generally not do anything which prohibits such, or even unduly burden such. However, the aforementioned phenonenon is oftentimes a hybrid of public and private property. Thus, when JWs are either prohibited or burdened from entry into these "controlled access" residential areas, the question becomes: Is such legal?

    These two cases are interesting to Watchtower Watchers because the WBTS is forced to take sides with criminals, or at least oppose local government's efforts to fight crime. (Civil libertarians will argue with my characterization.)

    In HICKS, the WBTS participated in the SCOTUS case only in the Amicus Curaie capacity. If I read the case correctly(?), the Virginia Appeals and Supreme Courts struck down the pertinent local "controlled access" efforts at crime control saying they were "unconstitutional" on their "face" (facially). Although I have NOT read the WBTS Brief, I am sure they argued about how the local regulations required JWs to first seek permission to enter the Richmond, Virginia housing project -- something that SCOTUS ruled in 2001/2 that the City of Stratton could NOT do to JWs. The WBTS would like to see ALL such "controlled access" schemes ruled "facially unconstitutional", otherwise, JWs all across the U.S. are going to be required to "seek permission" to enter more and more of these "controlled access" hybrid public/private residential areas.

    If I am interpreting these cases correctly, if SCOTUS rules in the likely RAMOS appeal that the PR situation is, like HICKS, NOT "facially unconstitutional", then that will mean that the WBTS will have to fight every individual situation "as applied" to the local JWs. That could mean lots of time and $$$ used up by WBTS Legal.

    Again, I could not locate the Watchtower's HICKS Brief on the net, nor have I found the RAMOS ruling nor the specific Puerto Rico "controlled access law". I welcome others interested in this phenomenon to help locating this info, as well as determine whether I am interpreting the issues correctly. If so, this is something to keep an eye on.

    Again, the WBTS is forced to take the civil libertarian side where one also will find the criminal element arguing with the WBTS. This also places the WBTS in the line of fire of local crime control efforts and groups. When SCOTUS and lower courts inevitably do rule in the WBTS's favor in some locale, then the local criminal element may finally wake up to the fact that all a criminal has to do to keep authorities from interogating them and restricting their entry to these areas is to start carrying a WATCHTOWER magazine in their pocket.

    This could get interesting; or maybe not.

  • jgnat

    I think if the WTS thinks they are going to lose an important battle, they settle. They settle with a big fat non-disclosure agreement. I've seen several court cases just DIE on the web. The lawyers pull everything they had on the case off the internet. Non-disclosure agreement. Embarrassment contained.

  • DaCheech

    cocky bastards....

    "we are no part of the world", yet they use all the muster they can to change the "laws of this world"

  • West70


  • West70


  • West70


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