Noblett: City rules trump constitutional rights

Phil Noblett, right, is city attorney and believes the city’s blockade on public comment is constitutinal. (Photo David Tulis)

 I’m glad to be put into my place by city attorney Phil Noblett, who tonight at city council assures me that the city’s 3-minute public comment rule is good and true, and appears to have arisen from the constitution itself.

By David Tulis / NoogaRadio 92.7 FM

I propose that the individual who is fed up with the operation of city government use the constitutionally recognized instrument of address or remonstrance to complain about matters requiring redress.

These two methods of communication are in our bill of rights.

Declaration of rights, section 23. That the citizens have a right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble together for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances, or other proper purposes, by address or remonstrance. [emphasis added]

Mr. Noblett is getting his papers into his satchel after city council has adjourned.

City unshakeable in its speech ban

David Section 23 of the bill of rights in Tennessee to make remonstrance or address to city council — that would be the assertion of a constitutional right to make to a body vested with governmental authority, an address or remonstrance — is that something that, in your view, would be under the 3-minute rule? Or is that something that would overwhelm and surpass the administrative limit of the council on public comment? Because I would say a remonstrance, citing the constitution as authority, is not just a “public comment.” ***

Phil Noblett Both the Tennessee constitution and the United States constitution Tennessee constitution and the United States constitution both recognize the ability to regulate as to time, manner and place. The city council has adopted rules which I believe are constitutional under both the Tennessee and United States constitution based upon a limitation in the amount of time so that this body can you do its business in the evening.

David Well, today’s meeting was 24 minutes long. Would it be possible for someone in remonstrating with city council — which, perhaps, one of my listeners may want to do — could have more times than just 3 minutes so that — maybe if might take up to 7?

Phil Noblett Not under the current council rules, no sir. 

David So one invokes the constitutional bill of rights authority to make remonstrance or address — you’re saying that that is subordinate to the rules of the city council.

Phil Noblett No, sir. I’m saying it’s required by the United States constitution to be subject to reasonable restrictions for time, manner and place which is not subject to strict scrutiny under the law. [Effectively, the constitution REQUIRES time limits on citizens by city councils because ‘strict scrutiny” is not required.]


  1. Karl Shumaker

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