The gold standard of excellence for more than 80 years, Bloomberg BNA’s The United States Law Week® is the most authoritative way to keep up with important cases and other legal developments...
Aug. 23 — The fight between Grand Chute, Wis., and the Construction and General Laborer's Union over an inflatable rat may be moot, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held Aug. 19 ( Constr. & Gen. Laborers' Local Union No. 330 v. Town of Grand Chute , 2016 BL 269669, 7th Cir., No. 15-1932, 8/19/16 ).
The labor dispute that spawned the rat is over, and the town ordinance requiring that the rat and its inflatable fat cat companion be removed has since been amended, Judge Frank H. Easterbrook wrote for the court.
The rat and fat cat—which holds a construction worker by the neck—were placed by the union to “demonstrate their unhappiness with employers that do not pay union-scale wages,” the court said.
The previous version of the Grand Chute ordinance banned “signs on the public way.” Because the rat and cat were tethered to a ground and near a public road, they qualified. The union sued, asserting the ordinance violated their free speech rights.
The court remanded the case to determine whether the dispute is sufficiently likely to arise again that it would qualify as “capable of repetition yet evading review.” It also reviewed free speech law to assist the district court on remand.
Chief Judge Diane P. Wood joined the opinion.
Judge Richard A. Posner concurred with the reversal, but dissented from the remand. The “aesthetics and safety” justifications for the ordinance were “spurious,” and there was evidence of uneven enforcement of the law, he said.
“The balance of evidence is clear enough to justify our deciding that the union's constitutional right of free speech was violated,” he said.
He also took the opportunity to criticize the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in McCullen v. Coakley, 82 U.S.L.W. 4584, 2014 BL 177532 (U.S. June 26, 2014), which invalidated a Massachusetts law creating a 35-foot protest exclusion zone around abortion clinics.
McCullen relied on the notion that people wishing to converse on the street with strangers about political issues is traditional political expression.
“This isn't actually true,” Posner said. “No one wants to be buttonholed on the sidewalk,” and in the 21st century, if you are so confronted, “you flee.”
In McCullen, the privacy interests of the clinic's patients weren't enough to overcome the “negligible contribution that abortion protesters make to the marketplace in ideas,” he said.
“The giant rat in this case no doubt causes distress to the executives of the car dealership that the rat is picketing,” but “after McCullen it is clear” that such speech is protected, he said.
The Previant Law Firm, S.C. represented the plaintiffs. Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP represented Grand Chute.
To contact the reporter on this story: Nicholas Datlowe in Washington at email@example.com
Full text at http://src.bna.com/hXv.
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)