Federal court settles parade ordinance lawsuit
Amendment addresses $3 ruling
An amendment to the city's parade and public assembly ordinance that addresses the ruling of a federal judge received a first reading by the Lake Geneva City Council Monday night.
The March 17 ruling by U.S. District Judge Thomas Curran in the Trewhella and Long v. the City of Lake Geneva case found two sections of the ordinance to be unconstitutional and awarded $3 to the plaintiffs.
"The court ... found that the ordinance was unconstitutional as applied to plaintiffs Matthew Trewhella and James Long on May 18, 2002 and awarded each plaintiff nominal damages of $1," City Attorney Mike Rielly stated in a March 20 memorandum. "The court further found that application of the prior parade and public assembly ordinance was unconstitutional as applied to plaintiff Long on Nov. 25, 2000 and awarded a nominal damage of $1."
Curran ruled in his decision on summary judgement motions filed by both parties that the definition section and the exceptions section of the ordinance are unconstitutional, Rielly said.
Curran denied Trewhella's and Long's claims for compensatory damages for the filing of counterclaims and on all claims for declaratory or injunctive relief arising out of the application of the initial parade and assembly ordinance.
"The effect of the court's order is that the plaintiff's lawsuit is dismissed and a court trial scheduled for April 14, 2003 has been taken off the court's calendar," Rielly stated.
The city adopted the ordinance in 2000 because residents and government officials complained about graphic posters that were being displayed at unannounced times on city streets by abortion protesters. The protesters reportedly caused traffic problems when they paraded with their placards on Main Street (Highway 50) and Highway 120.
The city and Police Department also received complaints about the graphic nature of the protesters' posters.
The first parade and assembly ordinance adopted by the city was later repealed. The current ordinance was "patterned on Elkhorn's," Rielly said.
Curran ruled that the definitions section of the ordinance is unconstitutional because its law terms are too broad, Rielly said. The exceptions section was ruled unconstitutional because it violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution, he said.
The sections will be deleted from the ordinance after the council has a second reading of the amendment April 28.
The definitions section defines "parade," "public assembly" and "business days."
The exceptions section of the ordinance states:
"This ordinance shall not apply to the following: a. funeral processions; b. school sponsored and supervised activities; c. government agencies; d. veterans organization's Armistice Day and Memorial Day observances; e. union picket lines; f. spontaneous events occasioned by news or affairs coming into the public knowledge within three days of such public assembly, provided that the organizer thereof gives written notice to the city 24 hours prior to such parade or public assembly."
Ordinance defines process
The rest of the ordinance, which was ruled constitutional, states a permit application must be flied with the city clerk. "All applications shall be promptly forwarded to the chief of police for investigation. If the parade or public assembly permit is granted, the city clerk shall issue the permit forthwith," the ordinance states.
Applications must be filed at least seven business days in advance of the date of the proposed parade or assembly. "The chief of police or city mayor may waive the time limit of any proposed parade or pubic assembly if after due consideration ... the waiver will not diminish public safety," the ordinance states.
"The chief of police shall act promptly to investigate and issue a recommendation within two business days after the filing of the application ... If the chief of police recommends denial, the city clerk shall disapprove the application. The city clerk shall notify the applicant ... within two business days after the chief of police denial, along with a notice stating ... facts and conclusions which are the basis for his/her denial of the permit."
Applicants can appeal the denial of an application with the Finance, License and Judicial Committee and City Council. A hearing before the finance committee "shall be held within three business days after the filing of appeal and based upon the evidence contained in the record, the committee shall recommend that the City Council either affirm or reverse the decision of the chief of police. This City Council determination shall be subject to judicial review in accordance with the laws of the state of Wisconsin."
The chief and the city clerk have the authority to revoke a permit "instantly upon violation of the conditions or standards for issuance as set forth in this ordinance, or when a public emergency arises where the police resources required for the emergency are so great that deployment of police services for the parade or public assembly would have an immediate and adverse effect upon the welfare and safety of persons or property."
Penalties established by the ordinance call for any person convicted of violating the provisions of any section of the ordinance to be fined not more than $500 for each violation, plus court costs.