[Hpn] 'Squatter' law must be thrown out, replaced ~Revisited~

William Charles Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Thu, 23 Mar 2006 18:47:06 -0500



'Squatter' law must be thrown out, replaced

This is a classic case of good intentions gone awry.

Concerned about "squatters" who took over Mokule'ia beaches and made them 
their semi-permanent living quarters, legislators passed a law.

The law, now Act 50, states that a police officer or any other authorized 
official can ban a person from public property for a year, simply on their 
own authority.

No court hearing or due process system. Simply a "get out of here" edict.

If the individual comes back anyway, he or she would be liable for citation 
for criminal trespass.
The idea was to give enforcement officials a new tool when folks simply 
refused to leave public property when they were asked.

Unfortunately, as a lawsuit backed by the ACLU now contends, the law is 
subject to abuse.
The ACLU has filed on behalf of a client who was thrown out of a public 
library and banned for a year because he was accessing a gay Internet 
resource site on one of the library's computers.

That ban, the lawsuit says, directly violates the patron's First Amendment 

Attorney Gen. Mark Bennett says he believes the law will be upheld in court. 
Simply because a law is misused or misunderstood does not make it 
unconstitutional on its face.

And of course that is true.

But the potential for misuse of this particular statute is so great that the 
state should abandon any thought of defending it.

For instance, what if demonstrators at the state Capitol could be told they 
are unwelcome and banned for a year?

Unlikely? Surely. But possible under Act 50? Yes, entirely so.

This law should be chucked out and the state should revisit the underlying 
issue in a way that better meets the constitutional test. 

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