Federal District Court Strikes Down Parts of Funeral Picketing Ban,

in McQueary v. Stumbo (E.D. Ky. Sept. 26, 2006) (Caldwell, J.). The challenged provision, 2006 Kentucky Laws Ch. 50, sec. 5, read:

A person is guilty of interference with a funeral when he or she at any time on any day: ...

(b) Congregates, pickets, patrols, demonstrates, or enters on that portion of a public right-of-way or private property that is within three hundred (300) feet of an event specified in paragraph (a) of this subsection; or

(c) Without authorization from the family of the deceased or person conducting the service, during a funeral, wake, memorial service, or burial:

1. Sings, chants, whistles, shouts, yells, or uses a bullhorn, auto horn, sound amplification equipment or other sounds or images observable to or within earshot of participants in the funeral, wake, memorial service, or burial; or

2. Distributes literature or any other item.

The court held that, though this provision should be analyzed under the law governing content-neutral speech restrictions, and though the court "that the state has an interest in protecting funeral attendees from unwanted communications that are so obtrusive that they are impractical to avoid," the law is unconstitutional, partly because the 300-foot buffer zone is too large. I think that's largely right, for reasons described here.