When I was three years old, my dad received a notice from our local interpretive center banning him and his children from the premises. This museum is federal property, coordinated and overseen by US fish and wildlife and the Corps of Engineers. We were banned in 2002, and in 2015 my dad was sent another letter lifting our ban. I was 16 at this time. Is it lawful to ban a minor from federal property?

  • 53
    Why did they ban you?
    – acpilot
    Sep 11, 2020 at 17:52
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    We would need to know why they banned you. Was it for something you dad did? Were you even there? Sep 11, 2020 at 18:58
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    @bdb484 Army installations are all federal property. The FBI building is federal property, as is the pentagon. You can't enter those freely.
    – Trish
    Sep 11, 2020 at 21:17
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    Seriously. A lot of issues. "Discrimination" encompasses a lot of topics, including First Amendment discrimination. The fact of Native American ancestry can also implicate a different set of rights than a non-native would enjoy, especially if the museum is on tribal land.
    – bdb484
    Sep 11, 2020 at 21:38
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    If you felt strongly enough to place the discrimination tag in your question, along with telling us you are Native American, you really should explain the connection. As-is, it's just frivolous information and poisons the answer pool.
    – SnakeDoc
    Sep 11, 2020 at 22:17

3 Answers 3


Banning you from the museum raises questions about your due process, equal protection, and First Amendment rights.

Generally speaking, a person banned like this would be unlikely to collect any damages, but may be able to obtain injunctive relief to prevent the museum from enforcing its ban. Of course, it would depend on the reason for the ban and the procedures the museum went through in imposing the ban and permitting you to challenge it.

In your case, though, the ban has already been lifted, so there's probably not much room for any kind of legal action.

EDIT: Since there are several people contesting -- with no law to support them -- the validity of this answer, here's a case discussing the First Amendment implications of access to museums:

As a limited public forum, there are certain First Amendment activities permitted on [National Civil War Museum] grounds and others that are not. For example, lectures or programs on a Civil War topic authorized by the museum and the public's attendance at these activities would be permitted uses, but activities concerning other topics (including the immorality of homosexual activity) would not. Diener v. Reed, 232 F. Supp. 2d 362, 385 (M.D. Pa. 2002), aff'd, 77 F. App'x 601 (3d Cir. 2003).

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    I don't think that a ban implicates rights per se, as far as I know even government agencies can ban someone from the property as long as it isn't for their membership in a protected class or their lawful exercise of rights (which, of course, may be subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions). Sep 11, 2020 at 15:02
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    @IllusiveBrian The second part of your comment seems to be a list of examples of why the first part of your sentence is incorrect.
    – bdb484
    Sep 11, 2020 at 15:13
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    By "per se" I mean in all cases. My point is that the manager of a government building still has wide latitude to ban citizens from a legal perspective. Thus, OP would have to show the ban was for an illegal reason, or at least that an actual policy was applied unfairly to them. I don't think that someone has an innate right to due process when they are banned from a government building, and in general the government does not have to make its buildings available for exercise of FA rights. Sep 11, 2020 at 17:06
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    @IllusiveBrian Again, you contradict yourself. You say the citizen doesn't have "a right to due process when they are banned from a government building," but then you concede that the court will ask whether "an actual policy was applied unfairly to them" -- in other words, the court will perform a due-process analysis.
    – bdb484
    Sep 11, 2020 at 20:58
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    @Brilliand Done. That may be where the confusion is coming from. To say a right is "implicated" doesn't mean that the right was violated -- more like there's some meaningful question as to whether it was violated.
    – bdb484
    Sep 11, 2020 at 21:02

You can no longer sue.

The ban was lifted, suing to have the ban lifted is moot.

Also note, that the end of the ban is more than 5 years ago and started 18 ago. That matters for the ability to sue too: the statute of limitations is often far shorter. I think whatever claim might have existed is now no longer available due to the statute of limitations.

As an example, relief under 42USC1983, in general, has no statute of limitations in the text, but whatever it is, it starts to run when the violation happens or the injured should have known about them - which was 18 years ago. In Wilson v Garcia SCOTUS determined that 3 years was appropriate in the discussed New Mexico case, and to use the state statutes of limitations for personal injury of the state the action happens in. In Shorters v Chicago the SCOTUS decided 5 years was appropriate as that was the general Illinois statute of limitations.

  • 1
    The concern over the suing is not that they are banned, but that they WERE banned for a period 13 years and were unable to use a museum that was supported in part by his families taxes (I am assuming) Sep 12, 2020 at 0:05
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    @RichieFrame What relief could they ask for, though? Sep 12, 2020 at 0:11
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    @MichaelHampton None, if the case is moot. moot means, there is no case. From the information given, the case is moot. We don't know anything to justify any suit but the relief of an injunction, which is moot.
    – Trish
    Sep 12, 2020 at 6:25
  • This is true for injunctive relief, but 42 U.S.C 1983 does not require an ongoing violation to provide a cause of action. It is enough that your constitutional rights were violated. Success, though, is unlikely. Sep 12, 2020 at 15:00
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    @PresidentJamesK.Polk Success seems impossible under 1983, which requires action under color of state law.
    – bdb484
    Sep 12, 2020 at 17:51

If you could sue it would have to broadly for one of two reasons:

Did the museum deny some specific right, as for instance the family had a season ticket granting repeated access which they refused to honour?

Did the museum cause damage, real or reputational? Did they for instance, unreasonably publish the ban, which might in some circumstances be libellous?

My guess would be that lifting the ban might remove any claim for lost rights.

I don't think lifting the ban would relieve them of responsibility if, for instance, they had damaged your research career by suggesting you were not a fit and proper person to be allowed entry to the museum.

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