Barefoot patron's suit may be denied
A federal judge said he might not consider a case against the Columbus library.

By Kevin Mahood
Dispatch Staff Reporter
February 23, 2002

A man suing the Columbus Metropolitan Library for banning his bare feet may not have a leg to stand on.

After listening to arguments yesterday, U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley told Pickerington software writer Robert Neinast that he's inclined to kick the case out before it goes to trial.

The library's attorney said Neinast has no case.

Philomena M. Dane aruged that the library did not censor Neinast. It was trying to protect his feet and avoid injury lawsuits because baring one's soles between the bookcases can be dangerous.

Beyond the risk of a stubbed toe, Dane said, the library has found other dangers on its floors: broken glass, blood, feces and semen.

Neinast, wearing a dark suit and black shoes, countered that only about 20 such spills occur each year and that the ban blocks a healthly lifestyle as well as free-speech guaranteed under the First Amendment.

He said going barefoot is a constitutionally protected statement that bare feet are allowed in public buildings. When others see his unadorned toes, he told Marbley, they get the message.

Outside the courtroom, Neinast said he hadn't asked whether he could stand before the court sans shoes.

"As I said in my affidavit," he said, "I wear shoes on formal occasions, and it doesn't get much more formal than this."

Copyright © 2002, The Columbus Dispatch