Here is a UPI story about the death of conservative columnist James J. Kilpatrick. Mr. Kilpatrick was probably best known to many people for his role on the Point/Counterpoint segment on 60 minutes, which then led to a Saturday Night Live skit featuring Jane Curtin and Dan Ackroyd (“Jane, you ignorant slut!”).
But as a columnist, he was well-known as a lover of words (and I quite enjoyed his column on that). He also had a weekly column in which he discussed Supreme Court issues. And that is how I ended up being interviewed by him.
You see, back in 2001 I sued the Columbus Metropolitan Library over their shoe rule. By 2004, that case had made its way to the Supreme Court. I had filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, which is how one requests that the Supreme Court takes your case and decides it. As part of his Supreme Court work, and with a dedicated thoroughness, Mr. Kilpatrick must have looked at every petition filed with the Supreme Court, since he managed to see my petition and was intrigued.
Here is how he started his column about my case:
One of the happy aspects of covering the Supreme Court is that a reporter never knows what will turn up in the daily crop of petitions for review. Most of the petitions range in dullness from the merely soporific to the truly stupefying, but now and then a case comes along that brightens the jaded eye. For example, Case No. 03-1263, Neinast v. Board of Trustees.
He was quite even-handed in his treatment:
The petitioner makes a persuasive case. A public library is surely at least a limited public forum. Accordingly, limitations on access to its resources must have a rational basis. Such limitations may properly seek to prevent future harms, but these potential harms “must be real, not merely conjectural.” There must be some plausible evidence that a proposed limitation will alleviate these harms in a direct and material way.
The library’s response to this line of argument is remarkably flimsy. There was some testimony that “feces, semen, blood and broken glass” occasionally had been observed on library floors. In its effort to document incidents of hazard “to barefoot patrons,” the library specifically cited an incident in which a patron hurt himself on a staple in a carpet. As Neinast observes, the patron was a child lying on a carpeted floor during a story-reading session. The awful gash was not on his foot. It was a scratch on his arm, quickly covered by a Band-Aid. Quelle horreur!
You can read the whole column here. [By the way, the Supreme Court did not take my case, so the current state of the law, at least in the 6th Circuit, is that it is not a violation of the First Amendment right of access to free speech for libraries to exclude barefooted patrons.]
I shall remember him fondly.
UPDATE: You can see my petition here (PDF).