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The Courts Communications The Almighty Buck

State Board Concedes It Violated Free Speech Rights of Oregon Man Fined For Writing 'I Am An Engineer' (oregonlive.com) 178

According to Oregon Live, "A state panel violated a Beaverton man's free speech rights by claiming he had unlawfully used the title 'engineer' and by fining him when he repeatedly challenged Oregon's traffic-signal timing before local media and policymakers, Oregon's attorney general has ruled." From the report: Oregon's Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying unconstitutionally applied state law governing engineering practice to Mats Jarlstrom when he exercised his free speech about traffic lights and described himself as an engineer since he was doing so "in a noncommercial'' setting and not soliciting professional business, the state Department of Justice has conceded. "We have admitted to violating Mr. Jarlstrom's rights,'' said Christina L. Beatty-Walters, senior assistant attorney general, in federal court Monday. The state's regulation of Jarlstrom under engineering practice law "was not narrowly tailored to any compelling state interests,'' she wrote in court papers. The state has pledged the board will not pursue the Beaverton man any further when he's not acting in a commercial or professional manner, and on Monday urged a federal judge to dismiss the case. The state also sent a $500 check to Jarlstrom in August, reimbursing him for the state fine.

Jarlstrom and his lawyers argued that's not good enough. They contend Jarlstrom isn't alone in getting snared by the state board's aggressive and "overbroad'' interpretation of state law. They contend others have been investigated improperly and want the court to look broader at the state law and its administrative rules and declare them unconstitutional. In the alternative, the state law should be restricted to only regulating engineering communications that are made as part of paid employment or a contractual agreement.

State Board Concedes It Violated Free Speech Rights of Oregon Man Fined For Writing 'I Am An Engineer'

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's awesome.

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @12:18AM (#55677933)

    Ok, so who's getting fired?

    • Ok, so who's getting promoted?

      FTFY — This is state government. No one gets fired.

      • I got fired from state government for browsing slashdot.

    • Let's suppose for a second that they fired someone over it, justifying it because the OR DOJ found that this employees action were unlawful. Let's suppose that it happened again, do you think the OR DOJ would be as likely to find that it violated the law? Or do you think they might feel some pressure to drag out the investigation, or not investigate at all saying they have higher priorities.

      No one is against accountability. But at the same time, harsh penalties can counter-intuitively reduce accountability

      • Let's suppose that it happened again, do you think the OR DOJ would be as likely to find that it violated the law? Or do you think they might feel some pressure to drag out the investigation, or not investigate at all saying they have higher priorities.

        They'd be likedly to find that it violated the law, given there's precedent and absolutely no risk associated with prosecution.

        No one is against accountability. But at the same time, harsh penalties can counter-intuitively reduce accountability by either a

        • They'd be likedly to find that it violated the law, given there's precedent and absolutely no risk associated with prosecution.

          No, they wouldn't. Faced with the fact that a finding would lead to a firing, they would hem and haw and point the blame. They would blame the legislature for not making it clear and dither for a few months until everyone forgot.

          Forcing people to pull the trigger almost never works in real organizations.

          Oh, I see. I thought you were talking about actual organizations that exist in the real world. Instead, it appears you be talking about a fantasy world in which any employee can get a political appointee fir

        • They'd be likedly to find that it violated the law, given there's precedent and absolutely no risk associated with prosecution.

          No, they wouldn't. Faced with the fact that a finding would lead to a firing, they would hem and haw and point the blame. They would blame the legislature for not making it clear and dither for a few months until everyone forgot.

          Forcing people to pull the trigger almost never works in real organizations.

          If there's literally no paper trail, then the head of the department that made the decision is the one that'll get fired. That gives him or her a pretty strong incentive not to do it.

          Oh, I see. I thought you were talking about actual organizations that exist in the real world. Instead, it appears you be talking about a fantasy world in which any employee can get a political appointee fir

        • This was fairly clear cut: they weren't simply ignoring the engineer's comments, but trying to intimidate him with a lawsuit.

          Jesus Christ, relax. It's administrative overreach, but it's over now.

          Because the AG forced them to admit that they don't have the authority to control the word "engineer", they'll have to knock it off.

          you do need to think in terms of removing people.

          If there is clear evidence that they intended to silence him, then sure go ahead. Otherwise, just make sure it doesn't happen again.

          This is way 99% of government agencies work. Someone does something stupid because there's no rule against it, then someone else writes a policy to ensure it doesn't happen again

  • by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @12:38AM (#55677987)

    To all those on Slashdot who defended the Oregon Board of Examiners (and there were a few of you that did), this would be a very good time for you to sit down and have this here warm cup of STFU.

    • And we serve those cups of STFU as unregistered baristas -- unregistered bikini baristas.

    • by Zmobie ( 2478450 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @02:46AM (#55678341)

      I'll admit I was fairly certain they were indeed allowed to fine him when I first read about. I thought it was heavy handed originally though still legal, but I'll eat my humble pie and be rather surprised that the ruling went in his favor. I guess technically speaking he wasn't doing it in a commercial capacity so these laws don't apply. Not sure I agree with them going after anything beyond a review of some of the fines they may have incorrectly levied against individuals under the same circumstance, but we will see how far they take it.

  • They did. The laws are designed to protect against someone who is unqualified from claiming to offer engineering as a service or offer their work as certified licensed work.

    The person down at the local subway can call himself a "sandwich engineer" if they so choose, but as soon as they start claiming they can design structures, power grids, etc for someone, they're in trouble.

    As an example, my good friend couldn't even put "engineering" in the title of his side business because he wasn't going to offer
    • Usually, if a country says that you're an engineer, you are. Apparently Sweden claims he is, so he is.
      • by Hodr ( 219920 )

        In Sweden.

        Not all countries have the same professional standards. A licensed barrister in England for instance should not be able to sell their services as a lawyer in New York (maybe old York).

        And "countries" confer bullshit titles all of the time. Or would you agree that Kim Jong-Il was the "World Leader of The 21st Century", as was among his official State titles.

        • I didn't notice that he was selling any services. He *is* an engineer, though; any English dictionary says so. And an English barrister in New York would still be a barrister. Or would he have to fill out "unemployed" if US visa applications (not sure about that) require to fill out your profession?
      • Usually, if a country says that you're an engineer, you are. Apparently Sweden claims he is, so he is.

        Does Sweden claim to be a country? :^) I kid.

        This comes up for people that have medical certifications from some nations and wish to practice medicine in the USA. Sure, you might have a license to practice medicine from Cuba but that means little here. People that were well recognized surgeons in Cuba will flee the country and if they are lucky they will get a license to drive an ambulance. Those not so lucky will get a license to drive a taxicab.

        I do not claim that the professional engineering license

  • No SLAPP Argument? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mentil ( 1748130 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @01:06AM (#55678071)

    Considering the fine against him was essentially a SLAPP action, and Oregon has anti-SLAPP legislation, Mr. Jarlstrom should make the argument that an additional fine/restitution against the State Board should be applied in this case. Even if the specific legislation exempts the government, it could be argued by analogy.

    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      Not to mention a suit for violating his civil rights.... Should be a slam dunk, they admitted to it.

    • Even if the specific legislation exempts the government, it could be argued by analogy.

      That's not how law works. When the legislature exempts or excludes application by explicit language, it means that the law cannot be argued to apply by implicit language. It's a form of the 'more specific rule' canon of interpretation.

      Remember, the legislature isn't even obligated to pass an anti-SLAPP law. They could repeal the entire thing, so barring extraordinary circumstances, they can chose where and when to have it apply.

  • Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BronsCon ( 927697 ) <social@bronstrup.com> on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @01:20AM (#55678115) Journal
    I wonder if the handful of morons who keep crying about how I'm such a liar and can never admit when I'm wrong will own up to the fact that I was right about this when it first came up a few months back. You know, with the facts and honest opinion I posted.

    In other words, will the idiots stop spreading lies and admit they were wrong? You know, the things they insist I can't do, despite the frequency with which I back up my posts with actual references, come back to post corrections when I learn new information, and thank those who point me in the right direction when I'm wrong.

    Will they? Huh? Will they be able to admit they were wrong?

    Yes, I know this is off topic and I'm prepared to face the downmods. I just had to call out UnknowingFool, Zero__Kelvin, zifn4b, and the rest of that crew. If I'm expected to admit when I'm wrong (and I do when it happens), I expect the same from them and, well, after the dicking they've been giving me for the past few months, I deserve to gloat once.

    In your face, assholes.
    • In other words, will the idiots stop spreading lies and admit they were wrong? You know, the things they insist I can't do, despite the frequency with which I back up my posts with actual references, come back to post corrections when I learn new information, and thank those who point me in the right direction when I'm wrong.
      Will they? Huh? Will they be able to admit they were wrong?
      Yes, I know this is off topic and I'm prepared to face the downmods.

      Ironically, you didn't back up your post with actual references. You shoulda linked to the parts where someone on Slashdot touched you.

    • by DamonHD ( 794830 )

      How to make friends and influence people!

      Maybe this whole story is not about you, just maybe.

      • Maybe when a handful of people follow someone from comment section to comment section and consistently give them shit they shouldn't be surprised when they get called out for it. I'm not trying to make friends, here; the people I'm calling out aren't people I'd care to associate with if not for the fact that they follow me around here in an attempt to push my buttons.

        More to the point, as I've told the lot of them time and again, I find it entertaining that they think they're anything more to me than a so
        • by DamonHD ( 794830 )

          How useful is it to make scenes in public places just for the sake of it? You subtract from other people's enjoyment and focus. And no I don't think that being unpleasant/destructive just because you can is anything other than a selfish ego trip.

          If that's something that you do regularly, maybe *that* is why people are calling you out. Doing more of it isn't going to get them to stop.

    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
      Don't know you or the conversation history, but this is about as petty and bitter as posts get. Jesus fucking christ. Lighten up.
  • Nous Sommes Tous Ingenieur(s).
    Although on second thought. Maybe not,

  • Did your RTFA? Did you see his photograph? Caption: "I'm an engineer, not a doctor, damnit!" http://image.oregonlive.com/ho... [oregonlive.com]
  • This Happened to Me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lazarus ( 2879 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @08:52AM (#55679483) Homepage Journal

    Many years ago I started a small software "engineering" shop with about a half dozen "engineers" (we used to call them that a lot more back then). Naturally, I thought it was a good idea to have "engineering" in the name of the company.

    This was fine for quite a while as we never advertised and we certainly would never have even dreamed of passing ourselves off as some kind of structural or electrical engineering company. Then one day I added another phone line to the office and the local telephone company (without my knowledge) put a "free" yellow pages "ad" in their listing for the company...

    The Association of Professional Engineers called me... They were good about it, but quite firm that I was absolutely not to do business under that name anymore unless I wanted to be sued out of existence. I changed the name at my inconvenience and expense. For good measure, I also changed my phone numbers.

    I honestly had no idea that there was a group of people (with a lot of lawyers) who had a claim over a word in the English language. I still think it's wrong.

    • I think I would have legally changed my name to "Engineer Smith" just to be a pain in their ass.
      • I think I would have legally changed my name to "Engineer Smith" just to be a pain in their ass.

        No, you're not thinking big enough. Change your middle name to Electrical. Last name, Engineer. First name? Anne.

        "Hi, I'm Anne Electrical Engineer."

        Don't want to go by "Anne"?

        Last name still Engineer. Middle name as Structural. First name as Arnold or something but just abbreviate it. "Hi, I'm A. Structural Engineer."

        Open a dental practice. Call it something catchy, like "A. Structural Engineer Bridgeworks"

        Go into the arts, have a shop called "Structural Engineer's Drawings"

        Anyone have better ideas?

  • If calling yourself an Engineer is a free speech right, then I'm every cool, qualified title on earth.
  • I'm glad the pendulum is swinging the other way towards freer labor markets and less occupational licensing, since study after study shows all it does is hurt those worst off in society who have a valuable skill they can use to earn money, but don't have the money to pay for the license to legally use that skill. Also these licenses mean that we as consumers pay more for the services, be it barbers, plumbers, nurses, doctors, etc.

    I don't care how well you did on some state-issued exam which may or may no
  • Every time some idiot government employee/politician creates a law or regulation that the courts find to be in violation of our Constitution, the court should order them to pay (from their personal money, not state money) for 10 hours of legal training in what the Constitution lets them do and not do.

    And those hours should double if they do it again, and double again if they do it a third time (40 hours), until they stop doing it.

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