Rainbow Family in Court

When the Forest Service first began proposing that a permit be required for groups to assemble on public land, many were confident the courts would uphold "First Amendment protection." After the Forest Service promulgated its most recent regulation to criminalize assemblies of more than 75 people on public forest land without Forest Service permission initial court cases raised serious doubts about the judicial system's commitment to upholding the First Amendment.

Thanks to the tenacity of various individuals committed to preserving freedom of thought, expression and assembly by exercising those rights despite the mounting legal oppression, the struggle still continues. Presently, as the legal history shows, there is little hope that the court system will uphold the First Amendment right of groups larger than 75 persons to freely gather on "We the People land":

(a) the United States government filed a federal civil suit against the "Rainbow Family," and thirty-odd individuals, seeking a declaration that the 75 person limit was "consistent with the First Amendment," and an order to enjoin the Rainbow Family, et. al. from gathering in any National Forest anywhere in the United States in violation of the regulation;

(b) the government then moved to dismiss the complaint against all the individually named defendants who answered, and for default judgment against all named defendants who failed to answer;

(c) thus, avoiding any meaningful "due process," the government began its' judicial assault on free assembly by obtaining a default judgment upholding the constitutional validity of the regulations;

(d) criminal charges were lodged against five people in North Carolina, alleging that they violated the 75 person limit; a trail resulted in four convictions and one acquittal, the convictions were upheld on appeal;

(e) criminal charges were lodged against three people in Pennsylvania, alleging that they violated the 75 person limit. Those charges resulted in convictions

(f) criminal charges were also brought against five people at the National Gathering in Oregon; those charges were dropped after another person signed a permit. Subsequently, the five people charged in Oregon filed a civil complaint against the Forest Service. The civil action was dismissed.

(g) Strider was charged under the Special Use Regulations at the 1998 National Gathering in Arizona, acting as his own attorney, Strider filed a marvelous Motion to Dismiss, which was Granted on constitutional grounds.

The Ninth Circuit upheld the District Court's decision that Strider was not guilty of violating the regulation. In an unusual move, however, the Appeals Court reached beyond the facts presented at trial and held that, by virtue of an "administrative interprtation" published a year after Strider's trial, the regulation itself was constitutional.

(h) In August 18, 1998 Ben Masel was charged under the Special Use Regulations at a regional gathering at Secret Lake in Chequamegon/Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin. Ben repeated the arguments which had prevailed for Strider, and added a few others. In Ben's case, however, a federal magistrate found that the regulations were constitutional, and ordered that Ben go to trail. Ben's conviction was upheld by the federal district court.

At the 1999 National Gathering in the Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania, After a trial in the Federal District Court in Erie, the Court found the regulations to be constitutional, and, declining to adopt the reasoning of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which acquitted Strider, found each of the three defendants quilty of violating the regulations and sentenced each to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. The conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeals. Rumor has it that the case is presently on appeal to the Supreme Court.

At the 2000 National Gathering in the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest, Montana. After a trial in the Federal Magistrate's Court in Great Falls, the Court found the regulations to be constitutional, found Barry Adams and Val Demars guilty of violating the regulations. Adams was sentenced to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine, and Demars to 10 days in jail and a $500 fine.

On another front, two Fourth Amendment legal challenges to roadblocks at gatherings initially produced more favorable results.

Date Description
2001 Adams v. USA, . Civil case
2000 USA v. Adams, et. al.Magistrate's Court
2000 Adams, Freedom of Information Request (Technically, not court)
1999 United States v. Beck, et. al. Available Information
1999 United States v. Masel Magistrate's Court/District Court
1998 Addison, et. al. v. Forest Service, et. al. District Court
1998 United States v. Strider District Court/Appeal
1997 Oregon Criminal/Civil
1997 Pennsylvania
1996 Katuah, North Carolina
1996 Missouri - roadblock - District Court / Appeal
February, 1996 Florida -Contents | Docket

Previous Rainbow Cases
1986 United States v. Israel
1988 United States v. Rainbow Family, 695 F. Supp. 294

Related Cases and Legislation
1995 Religious Freedom Restoration Act
1981 CCNV v. Watt
1988 US v. Thomas, Thomas
1994 Joyce v. City and County of San Francisco
1995 Tobe v. City of Santa Ana

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