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First Amendment

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Hamptons Jury Upholds Volunteer's Right to Kvetch

It's official: You can kvetch all you want about any organization for which you're a volunteer — your local hospital, Greenpeace, the Democrats — and it's thanks to Pat Lynch. The former NBC reporter sued the Southampton Animal Shelter in 2005, saying it had violated her right to free speech when it fired her from her volunteer duties the year before. A jury sided with her this week, awarding her $251,000. Lynch had been walking the center's dogs and, troubled by conditions there — including how the animals were euthanized — she wrote letters to The Southampton Press expressing her concern, and filed a lawsuit against the shelter. Administrators let her go soon after. "It's a huge decision," her lawyer, Steve Morelli, told New York. "Volunteers don't have to be afraid to speak their mind as long as it's a matter of public concern and they're not disruptive." Good. But if Lynch didn't agree with the shelter's policies, why didn't she just walk away? "I love animals and I wanted to bring about positive change," she says. "When you volunteer, you don't leave your First Amendment rights at the front door." —S. Jhoanna Robledo

Breaking: Jailing People for Speaking Out May Be Illegal

A Manhattan federal jury has confirmed something you probably knew all along: It seems throwing political protesters in the slammer, instead of writing them a ticket, kinda sorta interferes with the First Amendment. The NYPD's lock-'em-up policy, born amid the paranoia of 2001, was short-lived (it's already off the books) and resulted in about 30 arrests, which now may mean 30 settlements for NYPD to cough up. The biggest mistake the boys in blue apparently made was committing the policy to the books in the first place: Nothing leaves a paper trail like, well, paper. The demonstrators' side alleged that the practice had existed for years as an unwritten rule — ever since the 1999 Amadou Diallo shooting and the spate of rallies it occasioned. Lacking concrete proof, the jury didn't buy it; if it had, the city would be looking at about 350 more settlements. Darned First Amendment. Jury Rules Against NYPD's Rally Lockups [NYDN]