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Michael v. City of Granite City

August 31, 2006

MIA MICHAEL, DANIEL MICHAEL, AND ANGELA MICHAEL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE CITY OF GRANITE CITY, ILLINOIS, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, EDWARD HAGNAUER, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF GRANITE CITY, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, RICHARD MILLER, CHIEF OF POLICE OF GRANITE CITY, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, AND GRANITE CITY POLICE OFFICERS MERZ AND NOVASICH, IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stiehl, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiffs, Mia Michael, Daniel Michael and Angela Michael have filed a motion for a preliminary injunction (Doc. 24), to which defendants have filed a response (Doc. 26).

The motion seeks to have the Court enjoin the City of Granite City and its agents, including defendants Miller, Novasich and Merz, and officials including Hagnauer from enforcing Ordinance 7878 at the Labor Day parade. Ordinance 7878 prohibits signs larger than 8 1/2 by 11 inches within a 25 foot distance of any portion of a parade route. The penalty for violation of this statute is a fine of $25 to $100. The Court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion and took the matter under advisement. The parties have now filed additional briefs, (Docs. 29, 30) which the Court has considered. In addition, plaintiffs filed a motion to supplement authority (Doc. 32), which the Court GRANTS.

EVIDENCE PRESENTED AT THE HEARING

Plaintiffs presented the testimony of Daniel Michael and Mia Michael in support of their motion for injunctive relief. In addition, plaintiffs offered a videotape of the November 2005 Granite City Santa Claus parade (Plaintiffs' Exhibit 1) where discussions occurred among City officials and the plaintiffs and others, and an altercation occurred between some of the plaintiffs and parade observers over the nature and content of the signs that the plaintiffs were displaying at the parade. The defendants objected to the admission of this exhibit, but the Court overruled defendants' objection and has considered the videotape as part of its review of plaintiffs' motion. The Court notes, however, that the videotape offered little to the Court's analysis of the issues raised in the motion for preliminary injunction. Defendants presented no live testimony, but did submit a legible copy of the Granite City ordinance in question, Ordinance No. 7878 (Defendants' Exhibit 1).

Daniel Michael testified that he has been active in pro-life protests in Granite City, Illinois, for some time. He stated that he normally carries signs on public sidewalks, and that he wants the signs, and their messages, to be seen by those people participating in the Labor Day parade. He further testified that the signs he carries are usually 2' by 3' or 4' by 6 to 7'. He indicated that it was his desire to have the politicians in the Labor Day parade see the signs he would be carrying because of the message they detailed about his personal, religious belief that abortion is improper and the politicians should do something about this practice. He indicated that he had no other reasonable means to reach these same people, i.e. politicians, who will be riding in the parade. It was his opinion that if he were to hold a sign in compliance with Ordinance 7878 (8 1/2 by 11 inches, 25 feet from the parade route) the politicians, who are in moving vehicles, would not be able to see the sign at all. He further testified that it would not be realistic to approach politicians either before or after the parade. If the Ordinance is in effect at the Labor Day Parade, Daniel Michael stated he would not likely protest for fear of punishment.

Mia Michael, who is the 17 year old daughter of Daniel Michael, testified that she videotaped the Granite City Santa Claus parade where a fellow protester was assaulted by a parade-goer. She also stated that she wants to protest at the Labor Day parade, but is concerned about punishment under the Ordinance.

The Court notes that the Labor Day parade is sponsored by the Tri-City Chapter of the AFL-CIO, and is not a City-sponsored parade. The Court further notes that Ordinance 7878 specifically identifies "the annual Labor Day weekend parade" as one of the four parades to which Ordinance 7878 will apply.

INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

1. General Standards for Issuance of Injunctive Relief

The Supreme Court has stated that, "a preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic remedy, one that should not be granted unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion." Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997) (citation omitted). To be entitled to this extraordinary relief, the plaintiffs must show that "(1) they have a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits; (2) no adequate remedy at law exists; (3) they will suffer irreparable harm which, absent injunctive relief, outweighs the irreparable harm the respondent will suffer if the injunction is granted; and (4) the injunction will not harm the public interest." Goodman v. Ill. Dep't Of Fin. and Prof. Reg., 430 F.3d 432, 437 (7th Cir. 2005) (citing Joelner v. Vill. of Washington Park, 378 F.3d 613, 620 (7th Cir.2004)); see also, Erickson v. Trinity Theatre, Inc., 13 F.3d 1061, 1607 (7th Cir.1994). If the moving party cannot make this showing, "a court's inquiry is over and the injunction must be denied." Abbott Labs. v. Mead Johnson & Co., 971 F.2d 6, 11 (7th Cir.1992), (quoted in East St. Louis Laborers' Local 100 v. Bellon Wrecking & Salv. Co., 414 F.3d 700, 703 (7th Cir. 2005)).

2. First Amendment Violations

"When a party seeks a preliminary injunction on the basis of a potential First Amendment violation, the likelihood of success on the merits will often be the determinative factor." Joelner, 378 F.3d at 620 (citations omitted). In this case, the plaintiffs assert that the ordinance violates their First Amendment right to free speech because it chills speech and free exercise of religion in a public forum. Plaintiffs take the position that this ordinance is overly broad and is not narrowly tailored to serve any significant governmental interest, and that the burden on speech is too great. Plaintiffs further claim that the ordinance amounts to a "heckler's veto," and as such is unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs assert that they are likely to succeed on the merits because the ordinance in question is both facially unconstitutional and unconstitutional as applied.*fn1 Initially, the Court must determine if Ordinance 7878 is facially unconstitutional. Because plaintiffs' speech involves religious matters, it is considered to be of the ...


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