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Motion to Bar Bush Mention Denied

Posted Jul 20, 2007 8:08 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal judge in Philadelphia has turned down an unusual request to bar mention of the president’s name and the Iraq war during a trial scheduled to begin on Monday.

Harold Lischner, an 82-year-old physician, is suing Pennsylvania’s Upper Darby Township for violating his Fourth Amendment rights by arresting him outside a 2003 campaign appearance by the president, the Legal Intelligencer reports.

Lischner held a sign that read: “Withdraw our troops from Iraq. Give the $87 billion to the Iraqi governing council and UN for immediate relief and repair of the destruction we caused.”

Township lawyers had argued that mention of Bush’s name or Lischner’s views could unfairly prejudice the jury. Lischner opposed the motion, saying the township “apparently envisions a presentation … limited to testimony that Dr. Lischner was displaying an unspecified sign in opposition to an unspecified political candidate.”

U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter cited Lischner’s objection in denying the defense motion. The information is relevant and any damage it does to the defendant’s cause does not amount to unfair prejudice, he wrote.

"There is no requirement that trials be made up of the blandest theories, facts and arguments available," Pratter wrote. "By the same token … trials are not stages set for sensationalism, and the court intends to guard against this trial becoming a platform for public polemics."

The opinion is Lischner v. Upper Darby Township, No. 05-4546 (July 11) (PDF).

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