Carson City’s ban on "colors" in court struck down
RENO — A federal judge has struck down a rule at the Carson City courthouse that banned bikers from wearing insignia or “colors.”
Monday’s order by U.S. District Judge Philip Pro makes permanent a temporary injunction issued in October.
“It’s a huge victory for bikers,” Richard Eckhardt told a Reno newspaper. Eckhardt, of Sparks, is president of His Royal Priesthood, a Christian-based biker group.
He and nine other bikers were cited for trespassing at the Carson City courthouse March 26 for refusing an order from court security officers to either remove their motorcycle jackets or leave the public building.
They were among the 35 or more motorcycle riders who showed up at the courthouse that day in support of two Branded Few bikers who had been arrested two weeks earlier on the same charge.
The initial incident involved Scot Banks and Steve Dominguez of Reno, who went to the courthouse March 9 to contest a traffic violation but were told by security officers that they couldn’t wear their swastika-decorated vests inside.
The two were arrested and their vests were confiscated after they refused the officers’ ultimatum.
Thirteen bikers sued in federal court after the incident.
Carson District Judge William Maddox said while the ruling restricts a broad ban on wearing biker insignia into the courthouse, judges could still restrict what people wear in courtrooms.
People won’t wear biker insignia into his courtroom just like they won’t wear shorts or hats, Maddox said.
“The problem I have is that we live in perilous times,” Maddox said. “It’s our responsibility to ensure the security of people that come into that building.
“We took our best shot at trying to ensure everybody’s safe,” he said. “It wasn’t our intent to violate anyone’s civil rights.”
In his decision, Pro also noted judges have the power in particular cases or circumstances to restrict what people wear.
Maddox noted Laughlin casinos have banned bikers from wearing insignia into the casinos, following the April 2002 deadly battle between two biker gangs.
“Apparently we can’t do that,” the judge said.