February 24, 2003
Re: SBCCI v. Veeck, No. 02-355
Dear Mr. Pennak,
The Association of American Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. ("AAPS") urges the Department of Justice ("DOJ") to oppose a grant of certiorari in SBCCI v. Veeck. AAPS, founded in 1943, is a non-profit organization of thousands of physicians in all specialties. We have a strong interest in protecting free speech in connection with the regulation of health and safety. We urged the Fifth Circuit to hear this case en banc, and we argued for and prevailed in favor of the free speech right to recite the law.
Judge Edith Jones, writing for the majority, was absolutely correct in upholding Veeck's free speech rights. Her logic is unassailable:
"Citizens may reproduce copies of the law for many purposes, not only to guide their actions but to influence future legislation, educate their neighborhood association, or simply to amuse. If a citizen wanted to place an advertisement in a newspaper quoting the Anna, Texas building code in order to indicate his dissatisfaction with its complexities, it would seem that he could do so."
Veeck v. SBCCI, 293 F.3d 791, 799 (5th Cir. 2002) (en banc). Regulatory complexity needs to be exposed rather than concealed. The Department of Justice should not be siding with narrow special interests like that of Petitioner SBCCI and the American Medical Association, at the expense of a citizen's right to disseminate the law.
We support an unfettered right of free speech to communicate legal requirements. The DOJ, of all entities, should protect the dissemination of the law in order to boost compliance. In the area of safety, such as the building codes at issue here, the need for high public awareness of regulations is particularly acute. Many thousands of annual fire victims - including the 97 who recently died at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, RI - are unaware of hazardous building code violations around them. It would be a bitter irony if an entity in charge of enforcing the law files a brief to suppress the publication of legal requirements. Law enforcement should be on the side of Veeck and others who faithfully post the law.
Please consider this letter in recommending a position before the Supreme Court.
Andrew L. Schlafly