opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
Judge Napolitano
Judge Andrew P. Napolitano
11 Feb 2016
What If There Is No Difference?

What if all the remaining presidential candidates really want the same things? What if they all offer … Read More.

4 Feb 2016
Sources, Methods and Lives

This has not been a good week for Hillary Clinton. She prevailed over Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Iowa … Read More.

28 Jan 2016
Hillary Clinton's Nightmare

Hillary Clinton's nightmare is not the sudden resurgence of Bernie Sanders. It is the fidelity to the rule of … Read More.

Can the Secret Service Tell You To Shut Up?


The First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from infringing upon the freedom of speech, the freedom of association and the freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Speech is language and other forms of expression; and association and petition connote physical presence in reasonable proximity to those of like mind and to government officials, so as to make your opinions known to them.

The Declaration of Independence recognizes all three freedoms as stemming from our humanity. So, what happens if you can speak freely, but the government officials at whom your speech is aimed refuse to hear you? And what happens if your right to associate and to petition the government is confined to areas where those of like mind and the government are not present? This is coming to a street corner near you.

Certain rights, like thought and privacy and travel, can be exercised on their own. You don't need the government to cooperate with you; you just need to be left alone. Other rights, like those intended to influence the political process, require that the government not resist your exercise of them. Remember the old one-liner from Philosophy 101: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there, does it make any noise? Here's the contemporary version of that: If you can criticize the government, but it refuses to hear you, does your exercise of the freedom of speech have any value?

When the Framers of the Constitution wrote the First Amendment, they lived in a society in which anyone could walk up to George Washington or John Adams or Thomas Jefferson on a public street and say directly to them whatever one wished. They never dreamed of a regal-like force of armed agents keeping public officials away from the public, as we have today. And they never imagined that it could be a felony for anyone to congregate in public within earshot or eyesight of certain government officials. And yet, today in America, it is.

Last week, President Obama signed into law the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011. This law permits Secret Service agents to designate any place they wish as a place where free speech, association and petition of the government are prohibited. And it permits the Secret Service to make these determinations based on the content of speech.

Thus, federal agents whose work is to protect public officials and their friends may prohibit the speech and the gatherings of folks who disagree with those officials or permit the speech and the gatherings of those who would praise them, even though the First Amendment condemns content-based speech discrimination by the government.

The new law also provides that anyone who gathers in a "restricted" area may be prosecuted. And because the statute does not require the government to prove intent, a person accidentally in a restricted area can be charged and prosecuted, as well.

Permitting people to express publicly their opinions to the president only at a time and in a place and manner such that he cannot hear them violates the First Amendment because it guarantees the right to useful speech; and unheard political speech is politically useless. The same may be said of the rights to associate and to petition. If peaceful public assembly and public expression of political demands on the government can be restricted to places where government officials cannot be confronted, then those rights, too, have been neutered.

Political speech is in the highest category of protected speech. This is not about drowning out the president in the Oval Office. This is about letting him know what we think of his work when he leaves the White House. This is speech intended to influence the political process.

This abominable legislation enjoyed overwhelming support from both political parties in Congress because the establishment loves power, fears dissent and hates inconvenience, and it doesn't give a damn about the Constitution. It passed the Senate by unanimous consent, and only three members of the House voted against it. And the president signed it in secret. It is more typical of contemporary China than America. It is more George III than George Washington.

The whole purpose of the First Amendment is to assure open, wide, robust, uninhibited political debate, debate that can be seen and heard by those it seeks to challenge and influence, whether it is convenient for them or not. Anything short of that turns the First Amendment into a mirage.

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. Judge Napolitano has written six books on the U.S. Constitution. The most recent is "It Is Dangerous To Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom." To find out more about Judge Napolitano and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit




12 Comments | Post Comment
Thank you, Judge, for informing us of this. Another "transparent" law signed in secret without the people knowing about it. Surprise only comes since it was almost entirely unanimous in Congress. Now, it's time to forward this to everyone, and to bombard Representatives, and Senators, reminding them that this "law" will not stand up against the Constitution of the United States of America, and to repeal it immediately. Imagine a citizen who is exercising his/her/their Constitutional rights - peaceably - as is stated in the First Amendment, arrested for their Freedom of Speech, as is their Constitutional right being prosecuted? They need to repeal this before this is carried out against a citizen, and/or groups of citizens, before these people use the Constitution to prove the government overstepped their authority. There is no excuse for violating the Constitution of the United States of America in any way. This is not acceptable when the people can read, and easily understand, this document of Freedom. Again, thank you, Judge.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Americanazalea
Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:35 AM
Judge Napolitano,
Whom do I approach to become the test case for this travesty. As a combat veteran of both the Marines and Army, I've already proven a decade of willingness to support and defend our Constitution. I've never been convicted of a crime but if I must become a felon to challenge this demonstrably unconstitutional law I pledge to you and my fellow citizens my life, my fortune and my sacred honor.
The moderators can provide you with my contact information.
Semper Fidelis Sir
Comment: #2
Posted by: ColonialMarine
Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:36 AM
Wow I had no idea this happened last week!! And most of our newly elected "conservative" members in the house voted for it??!! Thank you, Judge for informing us of this. Keep up the good work, I'm a huge fan.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Kim
Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:50 AM
Perhaps the President should stay in the White House for the next 8 months and do his campaigning on TV when the GOP plans a debate - or isn't this what he has been doing?
Comment: #4
Posted by: Dave Templeton
Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:00 AM
Thanks Judge. Another abuse of our Constitution. One among many.
Pertaining to the first few paragraphs of your article, I would like to know if giving money is included in free speech?
I feel that the real issue destoying this country is all of the money going to buy off the politicians. Would it be unconstitutional to not allow the politicians to take money from any source other than what they get paid? Sounds like a no-brainer to me! I realize almost all of the politicians would fight it tooth and nail but if this problem were fixed, most of all of our other problems would fix themselves as we would have people working on the problems that were not being bought off by special interest. Maybe then they would have the People's best interest in mind, rather than their own. All of the other issues the media harps on all the time are just the politicians smoke and mirrors and the media, and everyone else, falls for it. As long as the politicians (both "sides") are corrupted, they only have their best interest in mind. Might even (wishful thinking?) get some honest ones in there! Doesn't seem to me stopping our politians from being bought off would be unconstitutional. They can speak all they want but when money starts changing hands it bribery!
Comment: #5
Posted by: Usedtobefree
Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:54 PM
And I don't mean fix it like they did last time! These cpacs have made everything worse!
Comment: #6
Posted by: Usedtobefree
Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:58 PM
This is a time for common cause with Occupy. They are trying to mobilize 100,000 trained in nonviolent resistance for the political conventions. Right, Left, Welfare state supporter, or Libertarian all need to speak out about this. Free speech is common cause to us all.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Michael
Sat Mar 17, 2012 8:44 AM
So, what's the use of having a Constitution and laws, if they're so easily violated? Okay, so they are ignoring the Constitution, the laws, the rules and everything else that makes us a great and free country... taking away and violating our rights! So?! They've gotten away with it, haven't they? We couldn't get away with breaking the law, but they can. So, what the hell are we supposed to do about it? And, don't say vote them out of office, because that still doesn't answer the question of how they are able to get away with it in the first place! Besides, if they rig the elections with assistance from ACORN, community organizer's, unions (SEIU), etc., we can't really vote them out anyway (see Dept of Justice vs all the states trying to get voter ID laws passed). I never thought it would be so easy for an individual, an administration, a certain party, the government in general, to "overthrow" itself (coup d'etat), and change America for the worse (socialism/communism). Unfortunately, it looks like I was wrong. Seems it's extremely easy after all! They just say "we don't care, and we do what we want, and there's nothing anyone can or will do about it, because we're in charge (recess appointments, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc.)" So judge, you keep telling us what's happening and what's wrong... now how about telling us what should and will be done about it! How's that sound for starters? -Otherwise, I guess we'll just be tracking our [powerless] demise, via your articles/thoughts. Thank you for keeping us informed, in any event.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Peter
Mon Mar 19, 2012 5:55 AM
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
-John F. Kennedy, 1962
Comment: #9
Posted by: The INFIDEL !
Mon Mar 19, 2012 6:02 AM
Judge Napolitano is SO FAR off base with what this law actually is and does that it truly makes him an idiot and for those that just blindly follow what he says without researching the subject, in this case HR 347, you should be ashamed for believing such absolute nonsense! Please read the summary of the section of HR 347 below:
Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011 - Amends the federal criminal code to revise the prohibition against entering restricted federal buildings or grounds to impose criminal penalties on anyone who knowingly enters any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority. Defines "restricted buildings or grounds" as a posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area of: (1) the White House or its grounds or the Vice President's official residence or its grounds, (2) a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting, or (3) a building or grounds so restricted due to a special event of national significance.
Comment: #10
Posted by: CC
Thu Mar 22, 2012 6:41 PM
Re: Peter

Again ; we could let them arrest us; and know that contract law courts are just that...contract law courts.
you have a right to remain silent...they can only keep you for 3 days and then will have to charge you.
But they cannot charge you if they do not have a name ( letter of the law ) .
You see... when you are in a contract law court ; they need a name to sign for the contract that you would
have with the judge. If they cannot get a name ; then no contract or jurisdiction.
Get the names of those people who arrested you unlawfully ( or through color of law )and charge them via
a Commercial lien. Don't need a judge and your rights have value ( big value ).
Those who took away your rights will have to now answer about the taking of ones rights or pay the price.
They may not go to jail... but you can hit them financially in the pocket. Lets see if their wives ; when credit cards are denied or canceled because of the lien ; don't give them a nightmare.
They would need to make you whole again in order for you to stop the lien.
A judge would not be able to stop a lawful lien done properly for he then would also end up on the lien.
We have power ; we just need to learn how to use it.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Bill Mo
Fri Mar 30, 2012 11:26 AM
Re: Usedtobefre
What you fail to understand is that people like George Soros ARE out there with HUGE SECRET money undermining America at every turn. Soros has bought entire organizations, given MILLIONS to people and orgs that are trying to destroy America and what it stands fore. Mr Soros, the hedge fund manager best known as the man who broke the Bank of England” after he made a billion betting against the value of Sterling on Black Wednesday in 1992 has now set his MINIONS of people and assets to hurt/destroy America. This has been done under the cover of secrecy and has even amounted to bribery to find DIRT on Republicans and conservatives. His minions are now going after the Koch brothers with a vengeance. Obama gave BILLIONS of tax payer money to Brazil for off shore oil drilling and Soros has a huge stake in this drilling and will make TONS off our deal. Soros said himself: "We need to manage the decline of the dollar and the only thing standing in the way of a New World Government is the United States of America".
Soros met with Mr. Obama's top economist on February 25, 2009 and twice more with senior officials in the Old Executive Office Building on March 24th and 25th as the stimulus plan was being crafted.
Then, in the first quarter of 2009, Mr. Soros went on a stock buying spree in companies that ultimately benefited from the federal stimulus
• Soros doubled his holdings in medical manufacturer Hologic, a company that benefited from stimulus spending on medical systems
• Soros tripled his holdings in fiber channel and software maker Emulus, a company that wound up scoring a large amount of federal funds going to infrastructure spending
• Soros bought 210,000 shares in Cisco Systems, which came up big in the stimulus lottery
• Soros also bought Extreme Networks, which, months later, said it was expanding broadband to rural America “as part of President Obama's broadband strategy”
• Soros bought 1.5 million shares in American Electric Power, a company Mr. Obama gave $1 billion to in June 2009
• Soros bought shares in utility company Ameren, which bagged a $540 million Department of Energy loan
• Soros bought 250,000 shares of Public Service Enterprise Group, 500,000 shares of NRG Energy, and almost a million shares of Entergy—all companies that came up winners in the Department of Energy taxpayer giveaway that produced the Solyndra debacle
• Soros bought into BioFuel Energy, a company that benefitted when the EPA announced a regulation on ethanol
The list is much longer.
Comment: #12
Posted by: itiswhatitis
Sat Apr 7, 2012 9:19 AM
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
Judge Andrew P. Napolitano
Feb. `16
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 1 2 3 4 5
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Lawrence Kudlow
Lawrence KudlowUpdated 13 Feb 2016
Mark Shields
Mark ShieldsUpdated 13 Feb 2016
diane dimond
Diane DimondUpdated 13 Feb 2016

13 Aug 2015 Chris Christie vs. Rand Paul

6 Nov 2014 More Culture Wars?

3 Dec 2015 The Spies Who Ruin Us