Monday, March 07, 2011
A WIN FOR ARTISTS EVERYWHERE
UNCONSTITUTIONAL ACCORDING TO UNANIMOUS JURY!
A report from Steven C. White Artist / Artist Advocate
After a 7+ year battle in the Federal Court, fighting for the Constitutional Rights of all Fine Artists in America, Shaun Christensen was awarded a unanimous ruling by 12 jurors in a Federal Court case coming out of the U.S. District Court in Utah on Friday March 4th, 2011. This litigation came about after Park City officials arrested Christensen on a cold Saturday in January of 2003 for receiving $15 in compensation for one of his self created 3in.X9in. works of art.
He went up to Park City that day, during the famous Sundance Visual Arts Festival, to protest the extreme restrictions that Park City placed on visual Artists...not allowing ANY outside sales by original artists in that City except during their expensive Park City Arts Festival, with its $400+ participation fees. He went there that day to stand up for the Constitutional Rights of All Artistic Citizens and engage in one of the most sacred activities that is protected at the very Core of the First Amendment. He was engaged in a peaceful political challenge to governmental policies, while standing in a public park.
Park City was quick to demonstrate just how EXTREME those policies were, with regards to visual Artists in their City! They arrested Christensen and through him in jail for 2 days!
Christensen got an attorney, Brian Bernard of Salt Lake City, and filed his First Amendment challenge in a law suit against Park City in the Federal Courts. Bernard seemed to be less than qualified in dealing with the proper legal issues of the case and the Federal Judge through the entire case out upon the first go round. Then Bernard quickly dropped the case, refusing to represent Christensen on the appeal to the 10th Circuit Court in Denver.
That didn't stop Christensen. In a move that should empower Artists across this country, he took on the legal challenge of representing himself, without legal council. That is called "Pro-Se" in legal jargon. So Christensen cited his First, Fourteenth and Fourth Amendment claims in his appeal to the 10th Circuit Court. Well be darned if the higher Court agreed with Christensen on questions of law. The high court granted Christensen's appeal and the case was sent back to the lower Court to be adjudicated under the "proper principles" of Constitutional Law.
Christensen has held out against the top law firms in Utah, hired to represent Park City. He has held out against accepting offers by that City to pay him money to settle. Christensen took on this massive challenge in the Federal Courts because he believes that all Citizens have a Constitutional Right to express themselves through the oldest and most powerful forms of human communication...the Fine Arts. He has held his ground for all these 7+ years, steadfastly refusing to compromise or give up the cause of fighting for all artists.
The Federal Judge in this case seemingly stacked every card against Christensen. Even refusing to adjudicate this case under the proper principles of First Amendment law found in the Bery v City of New York ruling by the 2nd Circuit Court, (1996), the White v Sparks ruling by the 9th Circuit Court, in (2006), or similar rulings by the 6th and 7th Circuit Courts. This Utah Federal Judge instead chose to throw the case under the "O'Briend" standards...which are applied to the sale of commercial merchandise. Treating Christensen and Artists in general as though they are no different than a Hot Dog vendor on public property.
Then the Judge called for a jury of lay people to decide these important matters of Constitutional Law...while ignoring Christensen's requests for summary judgment by this Court. So the fate of all Artists in Utah rested with the decision of 12 jurors. In the heart of Conservative Utah, we all thought Christensen had the proverbial "Fat Chance" of Winning because he had to win a unanimous vote of all the12 jurors...in order to Win the case. The other side had really stacked every possible card against Christensen's chances of winning.
The jurors deliberated for several hours before rendering their decision The Judge read the ruling first and seemed to grimace at the jury's decision. The tension in the court room could be sliced with a knife as the Jury Foreman read the decision allowed.
It was a unanimous vote by all 12 jurors.
Count number 1; The jury found Park City Did Violate Shaun Christensen's First Amendment Rights on that day they arrested him for selling a $15 picture in their park.
Count number 2; The jury found that Park City Did violate Shaun Christensen's 4th Amendment Right to illegal search and seizure.
Christensen is eager to take this on appeal back up the 10th Circuit on his 14th Amendment challenge that the lower Dist. Judge throughout. Christensen seeks a ruling from the higher Court that places the context of his WIN under the proper Constitutional Principles of Law and awards him a more defined and informative ruling on all three challenges he has brought before the Courts. It sure will feel better this time before the 10th Circuit Court with the winning ruling by 12 jurors under his belt from the lower court.
All Artists across this country own Mr. Shaun Christensen a deeply felt thank you for all that he has endured for these past 7+ years because he believes in the principle of First Amendment Law that all Citizens have the God Given Human Right to express ourselves Artistically on public forums without the threat of arrest hanging over us.
His WIN is a WIN for all Artists and further defines the protections offered under our Constitution for Artists and the Fine Arts... for generations of Artists yet unborn and on into the history of our Nation.
Thanks Shaun and Good On YOU SIR.
Steven C. White
Artist / Artist Advocate
Winning rulings in White v Reno, NV. (2003), U.S. District Fed. Court
Winning ruling in White v City of Sparks, NV., (2007), U.S. Federal Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, U.S. Supreme Court
Nevada State Assembly Bill 351, "Art in the Parks Bill" passed (2006), opening all public parks for Art and the Humanities to become a permanent part of the recreational experience of the public parks of Nevada.
Coordinator of the Carson City Free Community Fine Art Shows, each weekend all summer, free open to artists of all ages and skill levels.
Posted by Karl at 7:32 PM