Halloween signs declared unconstitutional: Butts County Sheriff Gary Long appears to have conceded

By Larry . . . Last week NARSOL reported on a case in Georgia we sponsored challenging Butts County Sheriff Gary Long’s requirement that all registrants in Butts County must post signs on Halloween or face criminal prosecution. We undertook this case because we believe that law enforcement must not be permitted to invent their own requirements as Sheriff Long and so many others routinely do. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit agrees with us and banned the practice. It now appears that Sheriff Long has accepted the defeat.

According to the local newspaper, the Jackson Progress-Argus, Sheriff Long posted the following response to the ruling on the BCSO Facebook page on Jan. 20:

My job, as [s]heriff, is to protect the people of this [c]ounty. The appeals [c]ourt did not rule in my favor, but it was a fight I was determined to fight for the safety of our children. . . .  The ruling from the appeals court is what we must follow, and this fight brings clarity to every [s]heriff in the state of Georgia. Despite if I agree with this ruling or not, it is now the law of the land, and I took an oath to follow those laws. I promise you, the people, that we will continue to protect your rights and protect this county’s most valuable assets, our children. Going forward my office will follow the ruling of the court and will not place the signs in sex offender’s yards, but we will, in fact, put safeguards in place to continue to protect your children. I will always stand up and fight for what I believe in and what I think will protect you, the people. It is an honor and privilege to serve as your [s]heriff.

Marc Treadwell, chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Macon, heard the case initially and barred Long from posting the signs, a position he later reversed by ruling in Long’s favor. He said that if the plaintiffs did not agree with the message conveyed by the posted signs, they were free to post their own signs beside them stating their disagreement.

That ruling was then overturned by the appeals court, and chief judge Frank Hull wrote in response, “If the only constitutional requirement for the government to compel citizens to host its speech on their private property is that it also permits them to post a second sign disagreeing with the first, the Sheriff could place any sign identifying himself as the speaker in any county resident’s yard.”

Hull further commented that Georgia law does not forbid persons on the sex offense registry from participating in Halloween activities and  that Sheriff Long acknowledges there have been no issues with any registrants in Butts County.

This case was discussed in detail on the Registry Matters Podcast.  Although Registry Matters is not a NARSOL production, it is an important resource for information and analysis of current events.

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9 Thoughts to “Halloween signs declared unconstitutional: Butts County Sheriff Gary Long appears to have conceded”

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  1. Tim in WI

    Butts has proven himself an unconstitutional actor whether he believed himself in the right or not. Fact is he trespasses on multiple private properties to place self aggrandizing signs. I trust at least one of the plaintiffs would file a small claims case. Even if that claim fails the publicity would send the proper message.
    Sheriffs who write their own laws are dangerous! If it were me I’d go hire a civil trial lawyer and sue for unlawful harassment.

    1. CJB

      Tim in W…

      If the BUTTS County Sheriff Wants to Make Laws, Then That Person Should Run for the Other Political Office that Allows One to Make and Pass Numerical Codified Statutory Law-Become a Legislator!

      Have a Great Day!

    2. CJB

      Tim in W…

      The Conundrum Here is That First, The Plaintiff Has to Have That LEO’s Idemnification Insurance Removed; (Traveler’s Insurance Insures Most Police Agencies), Then You got to Get a Judge To Remove Their Qualified Immunity Status, Then You Can Sue them Personally In a Court of Law

      Well, this Has Been Rarely Successful…Why; Because The Whole System is Against You!

      It can Be Done, But the Success Rate is less than .1%, Probably!

      1. Tim in WI

        Filing a public claim is just that. This is enough effort because of the facts. Indemnity nor imunity doesn’t apply here in trespassing as his mission wasn’t ( based on probable case) nor in good faith nor directed by law. While this court didnt state it in the opinion outright they overturned is based in bar to probable cause. If cause was present Butts, he would win. This is similar to a cop writing a traffic ticket for “operating to fast for conditions” after you ( or another party) call them to the scene by reporting it by cell phone after accident and for insurance purposes. Sure, he inks ticket but (in preliminary) ” Agent did you yourself witness the defendant driving on hwy.x?” Case dismissed .This is the same kind of question I put to WIDOC Registration Agent X in the context of FTR felony case with only a slight modification.
        Butts made his own bed here by posting without process; a national precedent set in my very own state. City of Hartford V Norma Grace Constantineau US400:443(1970). Norma’s case was indeed precedent when Mr. Rehnquist displayed an opinion different than the one in his home state in Alaska V Bartello, which became Smith V Doe03, in favor of his Federalist leanings. I’ve often wondered if he as chief judge rationalized his wrong doing by fooling himself by thinking he was reparing Wisconsin’s reputation as a good moral state. I also believe J.P. Stevens to directly counter and confront Rehnquist with his delusion concerning SOR database broadcast. When the minority opinion pins registration as ” unquestionably punitive” with such bare bones language, implicates an certain clarity in Acts intent, given the language used. After all, it cannot ever be in the people’s true interest to disobey constitutional limitations and ex post laws are easily identifiable because such laws, and only such laws, have easily identified traits. Stevens was confronting the majority for absconding their duty, rather than calling it “a close call” like RGB, Thomas, Souter. I digress too much but the difference you are not recognizing is while SCOTUS may defer to congressional intent Sheriff Butts may not in this case. You are correct about small claims proceedings against state agents isn’t available generally, but Butts was acting outside of his official duty and on a personal level. He would still be compelled to answer the small claim on that basis.

  2. CJB

    Have Not The LEO’s in “BUTTS COUNTY” Committed Offenses Such as Trespassing, Lettering, Etc on “Person’s Forced to Register’s” Properties?

    How Could any “Person Forced to Register” Allow the LEOs to Trespass and Litter on Their Property?

    Unless There was A Crime Being Committed, the LEOs cannot Step Foot on Your Property…
    Caniglia v. Strom! A Recent Order by SCOTUS


    1. Tim in WI

      He has but we both know there is a different standard especially when it comes to Sheriff’s. The difference between an unelected police officer and elected Sheriffs is significant. The first can be fired the latter…not so much.

  3. TS

    Actually, the Sheriff, et al, are open to a civil court claim for the infliction of mental & emotional pain & suffering upon the plaintiffs and their families just by doing this unconstitutional stunt. Criminal trespass may not be in the offering but he can’t get away from a civil case. I hope they all press with one here.

  4. Perry P.

    I would Sue. If I were to lose-and I probably would-I’d still try to Sue if I could find the right Law Firm willing to stand up to this reckless guy. Sooner or later, he’ll run for a State Legislative Office and try making this BS a Law anyway!

    1. Tim in WI

      Maybe he could, but he’d make easy fodder for any skilled attorney in cross, providing he was a witness.
      Attorney X: Mr. Butts have you ever been found by a federal court to have violated a citizen’s
      civil rights? Were you ever been found by a federal to have acted outside of law in your jurisdiction? Did you believe you were following the law and performing your lawful duty when you placed this signs? Or were you using the signs and your elected position as Sheriff as an opportunity to self promote in an election year?

      Had a similar case here in TWP Chief PD refused to call a black owned towing service in a supposedly rotation of several tow firms. Their PD Chief was found culpable by state appeal cause he’d never call them AND he had to sign off on each bill for city expenditure records- a “lawful ordinance” scam in itself. In short, he got canned, but I heard he moved to Indiana and got a similar job in another berg.