SAN MARCOS — On Oct. 8, the San Diego Law Library and the San Diego County Library’s San Marcos branch played host to a 101-level presentation on First Amendment issues.
That presentation was given by Carla DiMare, a Rancho Santa Fe-based attorney who runs her own law firm. It was part of the broader Know Your Rights series put together by the San Marcos library branch and the Know the Law series convened by the San Diego Law Library’s North County Law Library branch housed in Vista.
DiMare gave her presentation mostly in the form of posing questions about the hot national legal and political issues of the day. She asked whether certain activities are legally protected under the U.S. Constitution’s First amendment. Topics included kneeling during the National Anthem during a National Football League pregame ceremony, whether the President of the U.S. can block a U.S. citizen on Twitter, if an employer can fire an employee for his or her political activism outside of the workplace and more.
A broader takeaway: the First Amendment gives a broad suite of rights for U.S. citizens, but it does not apply on private property or privately owned venues or if one signs away his or her First Amendment rights in the form of a contract. In legal circles, this is known as the time, place and manner principle of the First Amendment, meaning it has broad applicability but is not universal in scope.
The First Amendment protects free speech, but also guarantees a free press and freedom to assemble peaceably, a right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, freedom to associate with a religion and also a freedom against religious imposition onto the citizenry by the state apparatus. DiMare’s presentation focused primarily on free speech matters, as well as the right to petition the government, squeezing the most she could into the roughly single hour allotted to her.
DiMare said that she believes that the “forum went well because the audience seemed interested and engaged in a discussion about how free speech protection is currently shaping our country and supporting the way we live and exchange ideas.”
DiMare also paid homage to the role played by the San Diego Law Library in bringing the presentation together. The law library exists as a resource to the public under California state law, as dictated by the California Business and Professions Code’s Sections 6300 – 6363, which mandates that each county in the state have a law library available to the public. Only 12 other law libraries of the sort exist throughout the U.S., according to the website PublicLibraries.com.
“The San Diego Law Library and the San Marcos Library are committed to helping people learn and solve problems,” DiMare said. “I have seen people at the law library who are faced with major life problems, such as an eviction or loss of a pension, and they have nowhere else to turn for help. The library gives them hope.”
DiMare came to Rancho Santa Fe by way of Boston, Massachusetts. She earned an undergraduate from Boston College and got her law degree from New England Law Boston, which is the oldest law school in the U.S. founded exclusively for women.
On the First Amendment, DiMare told The Coast News that she cherishes the protections it provides, but also believes that some abuse the spirit of the law and tarnish it for the general public.
“Judicial decisions about the First Amendment generally reflect an enormous respect for protecting free speech, freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble and the right to petition the government,” DiMare posited. “I find the First Amendment and its free speech component amazing and immensely valuable because it is a catalyst for debate and discussion which shapes our world and how we live. What’s extremely troubling is watching people on the news abuse these rights and abuse each other during protests and riots.”
And in explaining the focus of her law practice, DiMare said that social justice issues always sit at the epicenter of the cases she decides to take on and the clients with which she decides to work.
“I am a gracious warrior who fights for worthy causes,” DiMare said. “Something meaningful to my client and the community as a whole is really interesting.”