And finally… public nuisance

Members of the public have a right to be rude at town hall meetings and can compare town officials to Hitler if they want to, a US court has ruled.

Local officials in Southborough, Massachusetts have been left disappointed by a new ruling from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court which struck down the “civility code” governing its meetings as unconstitutional.

The code said contributions at its meetings should be “respectful and courteous”, as well as “free of rude, personal or slanderous remarks” — but was challenged by a woman who had accused a town official of “being a Hitler”.

The state’s highest court has found that the code infringed on rights dating back to the American revolutionary period, DNYUZ reports.

John and Samuel Adams, who wrote the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, had laid out a clear right of members of the public to demand “redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer”.

The judges said: “There was nothing respectful or courteous about the public assemblies of the revolutionary period. There was also much that was rude and personal, especially when it was directed at the representatives of the king and the king himself.”

The court concluded that “civility restraints on the content of speech at a public comment session in a public meeting are forbidden”.

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