NH Supreme Court to hear case of city of Keene vs. Robin Hooders

A lawsuit filed by the city of Keene against six people it accuses of harassing and intimidating city parking enforcement officers will get its first airing in the state’s highest court this month.

The N.H. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments Oct. 15 in the city’s appeal of its case against so-called “Robin Hooders.”

Keene officials first took action against the group in May 2013.

The Robin Hooders, many of whom are associated with a loosely organized Keene anti-government group, put change into expired parking meters before the city’s parking enforcement officers can write tickets.

The city said the group’s members were harassing and intimidating the officers, and sought an injunction to keep the activists 50 feet away from them, according to court documents. It later changed the request to 30 feet.

Keene officials also sought financial reimbursement because the officers weren’t able to perform their jobs properly; for counseling; and for costs because one of the officers quit and had to be replaced, the city said in a complaint.

After a three-day trial including testimony from the Robin Hooders and parking enforcement officers, Judge John C. Kissinger Jr. dismissed the city’s complaint in December, citing the Robin Hooders’ First Amendment rights.

An attorney hired by city officials appealed Kissinger’s ruling to the N.H. Supreme Court.

In the meantime, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a case in June involving buffer zones with conclusions relevant to the Robin Hooders case.

The court struck down Massachusetts’ 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, mentioning several times in the ruling that individual injunctions are an appropriate way to handle protesters who harass people on public property.

The city of Keene had sought individual injunctions against Graham Colson, James Cleaveland, Garret Ean, Kate Ager, Ian Freeman and Peter Eyre in its suit, saying they regularly interfered with the parking enforcement officers by taunting, following and videotaping the officers.

The Robin Hooders denied the city’s claims, saying their interactions with the parking enforcement officers did not constitute harassment. They said they videotape their actions to protect themselves against false accusations.

The group regularly posted — and as of last month continued to post — videos they took of their interactions with the officers on YouTube and on the website FreeKeene.com.

Martha Shanahan can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1434, or mshanahan@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @MShanahanKS.