In the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, several activist groups and individuals filed a complaint in 1987 claiming that their First Amendment rights had been and were likely to continue to be violated by the defendants. The defendants consisted of a corporation active in providing ceremonies commemorating the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, the National Park Service and its personnel, the City of Philadelphia and various Philadelphia police officers, and an FBI official. We do not have a copy of the complaint, but an available document shows that the plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction. An evidentiary hearing on that application occurred on July 8, 1987, before District Judge John P. Fullam, who heard oral argument on the motion the next day.
On July 10, 1987, Judge Fullam issued a preliminary injunction, albeit slightly less sweeping than the plaintiffs had sought. First, the judge denied the request to enjoin the corporate and FBI defendants, and refused to enjoin the police from surveillance activities, since the evidence adduced at the hearing did not show clear violations of rights or a substantial likelihood of further constitutional violations attributable to these defendants. Based, however, on evidence showing efforts to exclude dissenting or controversial opinions from being expressed at bicentennial activities, the remaining defendants were enjoined from denying plaintiffs or others permission to lawfully distribute leaflets or printed matter, or to wear, display, or carry signs, placards or insignia, by reason of the message contained, in areas open to the public including Independence National Historical Park, so long as the activities did not breach the peace or interfere with similar activity by others or with public events in progress. Judge Fullam's injunction contained a proviso that it not be interpreted to prevent the defendants from properly performing their duties to ensure safety and security, enforce federal and state laws, and bar unreasonable interference and disruption of bicentennial events and ceremonies.
We do not have additional documents from this case, nor its docket sheet, and therefore cannot summarize additional activity that may have occurred in it. Years later, however, community activist organizations filed a separate lawsuit in 2003 seeking protections against local and federal conduct in Philadelphia which, the plaintiffs contended, violated their constitutional rights and what they termed a "consent decree" entered in 1987 in this case. The allegation suggests that Judge Fullam's 1987 preliminary injunction, at some point, was converted to or adopted as, by consent of settling parties, a consent decree. (The separate lawsuit, ACORN v. City of Philadelphia, exists in this database as case PN-PA-6.)Mike Fagan - 06/26/2008