Law School Case Brief
People ex rel. Gallo v. Acuna - 14 Cal. 4th 1090, 60 Cal. Rptr. 2d 277, 929 P.2d 596 (1997)
Freedom of association, in the sense protected by U.S. Const. amend. I, does not extend to joining with others for the purpose of depriving third parties of their lawful rights. The activities of a gang and its members are neither "private" or "intimate" as constitutionally defined; the fact that the members may exercise some discrimination in choosing associates by a selective process of inclusion and exclusion does not mean that the association or its activities is one that commands protection under the First Amendment.
The trial court, on petition by a city attorney, issued a preliminary injunction directed against designated street gang members and specified activities in a four-square-block neighborhood. The Superior Court of Santa Clara County enjoined defendants from, among other things, "standing, sitting, walking, driving, gathering or appearing anywhere in public view with any other defendant . . . or with any other known [gang] member," and from confronting, intimidating or similarly challenging--including assaulting and battering--residents, "or any other persons" known to be gang members to have complained about their conduct within the neighborhood. The Court of Appeal modified the preliminary injunction, upholding only those provisions enjoining acts or conduct defined as crimes under specific provisions of the Penal Code, and, as modified, affirmed.
Are gangs entitled to protection under U.S. Const. amend. I?
The Supreme Court of California reversed the judgment of the appellate court, which invalidated two provisions of a preliminary injunction. The court held that defendants' association was not entitled to protection under U.S. Const. amend. I, because the gang was not formed for the purpose of engaging in protected speech or religious activities. The court held that the trial court's preliminary decree was not overbroad, because it was addressed to identifiable parties and to specific circumstances, and the enjoined acts were particularly described. The court held that the California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (STEP), Cal. Penal Code, §186.20 et seq., was not the exclusive means of enjoining defendants, because other legal remedies were not precluded by STEP. The conduct enjoined met the statutory definition of a public nuisance.
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