Quit Bothering Superman, Judge Tells LAPD

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Superman has won yet another battle against evildoers, but this time he went to federal court instead of the Hall of Justice to get help.

Hall of Justice This matter comes before the court on a Motion for Preliminary Injunction filed by the plaintiffs …. Plaintiffs are various individuals who adopt the personas of, and dress as comic book movie characters such as Wolverine, Batman, Superman, Catwoman, Iron Man, the Joker, and Transformer [sic], and perform on Hollywood Boulevard. Plaintiffs allege that the City of Los Angeles and individual officers of the [LAPD] have impermissibly arrested and threatened Plaintiffs with arrest while Plaintiffs were in costume on Hollywood Boulevard in violation of Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.

Superman was busted for loitering on July 8, a few days after Wolverine, Catwoman and two Batmans were arrested for allegedly "blocking the sidewalk" in violation of the municipal code. None of them were convicted of anything and it isn't clear whether they were even charged. (It also isn't clear whether Iron Man, the Joker or the unidentified "Transformer" also got in trouble, or if those were just some other comic book characters that the judge had heard of.) They sued, alleging that they have the right to "solicit donations" on public sidewalks, and that the LAPD was unconstitutionally targeting them. The judge agreed and granted the injunction.

He noted that, on the one hand, plaintiffs' activities could be classified as "performance art," long recognized as protected expressive activity. On the other, the government seems to have made little effort to justify its crackdown on the Super Friends.

[A]lthough costumed performance may not be a traditional form of speech, it is without doubt a protected one…. In sum, the court is persuaded that Defendants have not shown a compelling government interest in keeping costumed performers off Hollywood Boulevard.

This is certainly not the first time heroes have been hassled in Hollywood.  See, e.g., "Nobody Tells This Wookiee What to Do," Lowering the Bar (Feb. 6, 2007). On the other hand, they aren't always acting heroically, such as in May when Spider-Man was arrested for punching somebody. Of course, he does that a lot, but this may have been a tourist instead of a nemesis.