Lawsuit Over Speech Rights and City Interests Shows Need for Competent Attorney

Louisiana court dockets are packed. Judges are over-worked. This means that judges have little patience for frivolous lawsuits or claims that are not clearly defined. When claims are muddled, a judge may have difficulty discerning what issues are to be analyzed. This murky analysis can lead to erroneous conclusions that can lead meritorious claims to be dismissed. One of these cases was recently under consideration in the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

In this case, a South Padre Island restaurant owner brought suit against the city when city ordinances denied his desire to place an advertisement on a moored boat. The district and appellate courts found the claim to be ever-changing. Parties were added and removed and the claims themselves changed frequently. The lawsuit brought forth claims ranging from First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment violations to violations of Texas law. This muddied lawsuit caused the court confusion and led them to approach the case in a way that the plaintiff may not have intended.

The main issue in this case, according to the court, was whether or not the plaintiff had standing with regards to a First Amendment claim. In order for an individual to have Article III standing, a plaintiff must show an injury in fact that is concrete and particularized and actual or imminent; a causal connection between the injury and the conduct alleged in the complaint; and the likelihood that a favorable decision will redress the injury.

The Court of Appeals found that the restaurant owner’s First Amendment complaint satisfied the injury in fact element of standing, but failed to show that the city ordinances were conduct that would chill his First Amendment right. The court’s reasoning behind this was that the land under the boat belonged to the state of Texas, rather than the city. Thus, the city’s ordinances did not apply and there was no need for the suit. With no need for the suit, the court held that the plaintiff had no standing. This finding led the Court of Appeals to remand the case with instructions for the district court to dismiss the claim.

One would expect that such a simple problem, determining whether a city ordinance applies to an individual’s situation, could easily be solved by an attorney. Yet, in this case, it is not clear exactly what the plaintiff was seeking. An attorney should figure out what the plaintiff wants prior to filing a claim before the court. This will ensure that the judge knows exactly what the plaintiff is seeking and can give them an ample opportunity to meet their burden of proof for recovery. Therefore, the choice of an attorney is one that should not be taken lightly as it has a direct effect on an individual’s chances of recovery.

Determining exactly what kind of claim to make with a court can be difficult and daunting. A competent attorney can make this process go smoothly and help ensure that the claim has the best opportunity for success.

If you have been injured or wronged, contact the Berniard Law Firm.