Licensing Body Agrees To Temporarily Allow Man To Criticize The Government Without A License
from the baby-steps dept
A couple of months ago, the Oregon state government finally decided it was tired of listening to a civilian poke holes in its yellow light timing theories. So, it did what any reasonable government would do: used licensing laws to shut him up.
Mats Jarlstrom, a resident who had performed a great deal of research into traffic light timing, was informed by the state’s engineering licensing board that he could no longer perform engineering without a state-ordained license. Not that Jarlstrom was actually performing any engineering. (Although he could! He has a BS in electrical engineering.) He just wanted to discuss his research with the state’s engineering body. He also discussed his findings in more informal contexts, which was a necessity because the state wasn’t interested in listening to him.
In essence, Jarlstrom was told to stop criticizing the government without permission. He was fined $500 and told to shut up if he didn’t want to be fined in the future. Jarlstrom sued the state for violating his Constitutional rights. And he’s already achieved a small victory, as the Institute for Justice reports:
In an early and important win, yesterday a federal judge issued an order prohibiting Oregon from penalizing Mats Järlström for discussing the timing of stop lights or for calling himself an engineer. The order, which was agreed to by the state, means that Järlström is free to exercise his First Amendment rights to discuss his traffic light theories without first obtaining an Oregon professional-engineer license.
The opening paragraphs of the order [PDF] suggest the state licensing board has had a change of heart in light of all the negative press it gathered with its “shut up” fine.
Jarlstrom’ s complaint asserts that Oregon’s Professional Engineer Registration Act, Or. Rev. Stat.§ 672.002 et seq., and implementing regulations violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution both as applied and on their face by preventing him from (1) communicating publicly and privately about theories relating to the mathematics behind traffic lights, and (2) describing himself using the word “engineer.”
Rather than litigating a motion for preliminary injunction, the Board agrees not to enforce the Professional Engineer Registration Act, Or. Rev. Stat. § 672.002 et seq., or any implementing regulations against Plaintiff Jarlstrom during the pendency of this litigation for engaging in any of the speech described below.
At least for the duration of the litigation, Jarlstrom is free to speak about his traffic light research and refer to himself as an “engineer” without the express, licensed permission of the state licensing board. This suggests the state doesn’t feel very confident about its chances of success, so it’s minimizing the damage during the litigation. Hopefully, this will result in a settlement which modifies the behavior of the licensing board permanently and prevents it from wielding its granted power as a tool of censorship.