FREE SPEECH -- Leslie Berestein, writing for the San Diego Union-Tribune, reports that Caltrans and the San Diego
Minutemen have reached a settlement that "gives the anti-illegal-immigration activists what they
were hoping for: the right to keep their Adopt-A-Highway sign on
northbound Interstate 5, a cash payment, and litter cleanup on an
additional stretch of the freeway."

The settlement was reached Monday, according to federal
court records. In ending the lawsuit the group filed last year, the
state conceded that the San Diego Minutemen sign near the Border
Patrol's San Clemente checkpoint will remain for the duration of a
five-year permit, and that the group may continue to clean the highway
shoulder there, said attorney Howard Kaloogian, who represented the
group.

The activists had sued on grounds of free-speech
discrimination. “They are pleased that justice has been done, that
their free-speech rights are being respected and protected,” Kaloogian
said of his clients yesterday.

A Caltrans spokesman said yesterday that the
transportation agency had no comment at that time but would likely
issue a statement later.

The San Diego Minutemen were initially approved for the
highway cleanup program in November 2007. The group first applied to
clean up a portion of state Route 78 that was not available, and were
instead given the stretch near the checkpoint.

The following January, after complaints to Caltrans from
local Latino groups and some state legislators concerned about the
group's controversial nature, they were reassigned to a stretch of
state Route 52 near Santee. At the time, the agency cited safety
concerns.

Last summer, a federal judge ordered Caltrans to reinstate
the group's permit to conduct cleanups at the I-5 site, along with its
Adopt-A-Highway sign, while the lawsuit was pending. The group has
conducted regular cleanups since, San Diego Minutemen leader Jeff
Schwilk said, with the latest one about three weeks ago.