Thursday, February 26, 2015

Court Dismisses Religious and Speech Objections To Requirement That Witness Stand To Be Sworn In

In Pellegrino v. Meredith, (ED CA, Feb. 23, 2015), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed, with leave to amend, a suit for damages against a traffic court judge and the county by Anthony Pellegrino who, as defendant in a traffic case, was told that he must stand while being sworn in as a witness.  Pelligrino refused, telling the court: "I only rise before my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."  At that point the bailiff escorted Pellegrino outside the courtroom for an hour. When Pellegrino returned he was escorted to the bench area and sworn in before he had a chance to sit down.

The court rejected Pellegrino's free exercise claim, saying that at most he suffered an "insubstantial inconvenience" for refusing to stand.  The court also rejected Pellegrino's claim that his refusal to stand was protected expressive conduct.

The opinion recounts numerous incidents in which Pellegrino harassed government officials, raising frivolous arguments, asking government officials to show him their oath of office, refusing to pay filing fees, and the like.  In dismissing Pellegrino's claims, the court said:
Given the context of the situation, it is clear from this Court’s reading of the complaint that Defendant Meredith viewed Plaintiff’s refusal to stand while taking the oath as another incident in a long line of immature, disrespectful and frivolous protests by Plaintiff throughout his court proceedings.