Monday, July 26, 2010

American Bar Associaation Journal: Is Eye-Rolling Disorderly Conduct? City Attorney Ordered to Investigate

By Debra Cassens Weiss

A city attorney in a western Chicago suburb has a new research assignment, thanks to a woman’s ejection from a city council committee meeting last month based on allegations she was rolling her eyes and yawning disrespectfully.

The question for Elmhurst city attorney Don Storino: What are the legal definitions of disorderly conduct and disruptive behavior? A Chicago Tribune editorial says Storino got the assignment with the aim of drafting an ordinance to stop nonverbal outbursts.

The woman who prompted the legal question is Darlene Heslop, who was at the committee meeting to object to a proposal to hire a $30,000 state lobbyist, the Tribune says. Committee chairman Stephen Hipskind said he saw Heslop’s disrespectful behavior and ordered her to leave. Two other aldermen objected to Heslop’s ouster and left themselves, putting an end to the meeting because of lack of a quorum.

The newspaper opines that any ordinance should go no further than state law, which defines disorderly conduct as "an act in such unreasonable manner as to alarm or disturb another, or to provoke a breach of the peace."

“Where do you draw that line?” the Tribune asks. “Menacing others, throwing objects and setting fire to the dais are clearly out of line. But is it disorderly to yawn, fidget, smirk or scowl? To circle an ear with an index finger to signify ‘cuckoo’? To feign a self-induced upchuck, as we're doing now?”

No comments: