EDITOR: Judge René Chouteau says, regarding the county's Hall of Justice that, “The courthouse is designed for the business of providing justice. It's not a free-speech forum.” But by its very nature the process for seeking justice is not clean or clear or easily reached. It requires arguments, counterarguments and often input from many quarters. The attempt to reach justice is an exercise in the right to speak freely.
And, as The Press Democrat's editorial (“A courthouse tradition ends here,” Thursday) pointed out, there is a long history of the symbolic use of the nation's courthouse steps by those who have sought justice for civil and constitutional rights, paramount among them the right to free speech.
Chouteau should rethink his unilateral decision and bring it before the jury of public opinion. That's more in keeping with our system of democracy.
EDITOR: I would like to remind Judge René Chouteau that the courthouse is public property and, therefore, belongs to the taxpayers. It's not for him to decide whether we can stand on the steps and have a forum for free speech (“Judge bans protests at SR courthouse,” Tuesday).
The Constitution guarantees that right, and for him to suppress that freedom is a direct violation of his office. Since when is it OK for a sitting judge to overrule our rights? It isn't. And for him to impose a fine makes it even more subversive.
As for a dress code, I would have to agree that attire should be enforced. Coming into a court dressed like you're going to the beach or a picnic should not be allowed. I think he should be recalled for imposing a fine for free speech. He took an oath, and if he can't keep his oath, vote him out. It is not OK for this judge to dictate what he considers his law. It's our courthouse, not his.
FRANCOIS P. JERINS
EDITOR: I was saddened but not surprised to see your article about Judge René Chouteau declaring that demonstrations wouldn't be allowed at the Sonoma County Courthouse. He also set up a dress code. Fines for transgressions: up to $1,500. No mini-skirts, baggy pants or shorts are allowed in his building. No solicitors on the courthouse steps, perhaps pointing out the legality of jury nullification. I am not surprised by his actions.