A Pittsburgh man who gave a cop the middle finger may get $50,000 to settle a free speech lawsuit.
A federal judge said David Hackbart, 35, shouldn't have been cited for disorderly conduct.
Hackbart said he flipped the bird at another driver while trying to back into a parking space in April 2006, then did it again when someone yelled at him -- realizing later that the second person was a police officer.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued on Hackbart's behalf, saying the middle finger was constitutionally protected speech, according to the thePittsburghchannel.com.
The officer cited Hackbart for disorderly conduct. The county eventually dropped the charge, but Hackbart sued to recover the cost of defending himself.
According to the judge, the First Amendment protects Hackbart's one finger salute.
Now, the city council will officially vote next week to settle the matter. However, the council has already given their initial approval to the settlement.
Sara Rose, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union said giving someone the middle finger does not constitute obscene conduct under the disorderly conduct statute.
According to the ACLU, city police have filed 188 citations for similar offenses in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
Pittsburgh police officials maintain that officers are properly trained on how to confront rudeness and improper conduct.
In U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone's 19-page opinion and order he wrote, "The United States Supreme Court has long recognized that non-verbal gestures and symbols may be entitled to First Amendment protection."
The next step will be for the city's administration office on behalf of mayor to send a request to the city's legal department, saying it would like to settle, and then the council must vote on the matter.
Score one for David Hackbart.
- Federal Jury To Hear 'The Finger' Suit (NPR)
- Sides seek settlement in Regent Square man's middle-finger lawsuit (Pittsburgh Tribune Review)
- Middle Finger = Free Speech (Legal Satyricon)
- The Bird is the (Constitutionally Protected) Word (WSJ Law Blog)
- Civil Rights Litigation (provided by Boyle, Neblett & Wenger)
- Criminal Law FAQ (provided by McClenahen Law Firm, L.L.C.)