– Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court’s opinions protecting the right to free speech and public protest came back home Wednesday, prompting a judge to rule protesters have a right to carry signs on the court’s marble plaza.

Since 1949, Congress has made it illegal to demonstrate or to carry banners and signs on the Supreme Court’s grounds, including the marble plaza. Protesters are free to demonstrate or carry signs on the sidewalk outside the court.

But U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell called the restriction on the plaza “repugnant” to the First Amendment and declared it unconstitutional.

The decision stemmed from a lawsuit brought by a peaceful protester who was arrested two years ago. Harold Hodge’s suit contended the law was unconstitutionally broad.