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Heaney v. Roberts

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

January 23, 2017

TOM HEANEY, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CHRISTOPHER L. ROBERTS; PARISH OF JEFFERSON, Defendants-Appellants. TOM HEANEY, Plaintiff-Appellant-Cross-Appellee,
v.
CHRISTOPHER L. ROBERTS, Defendant-Appellee, RONALD BLACK, Defendant-Appellee-Cross-Appellant, CITY OF GRETNA, Defendant-Cross Appellant.

          Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

          Before CLEMENT, PRADO, and OWEN, Circuit Judges.

          EDWARD C. PRADO, Circuit Judge:

         This case involves consolidated appeals by multiple parties. Plaintiff Tom Heaney was silenced and then ejected at a city council meeting in Gretna, Louisiana. He alleged that the presiding official at the meeting, Defendant Christopher Roberts, violated his rights under the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution as well as under the Louisiana state constitution. Heaney also argued that Defendant Ronald Black, the Gretna police officer who removed him from the meeting, violated those same constitutional rights as well as state tort law. Finally, Heaney alleged that the Parish of Jefferson ("Jefferson Parish") and the City of Gretna were vicariously liable as the employers of Roberts and Black. The district court granted in part and denied in part the Defendants' motions for summary judgment. Because there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Roberts is entitled to qualified immunity on the First Amendment claim, we DISMISS his interlocutory appeal. We also DISMISS Black's cross-appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. We AFFIRM the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the other claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         On September 18, 2013, Tom Heaney attended a regularly scheduled Jefferson Parish council meeting in Gretna, Louisiana. In accordance with council rules, Heaney registered to speak during the time allowed for public comment. The rules allowed each registered speaker five minutes to address the council. Heaney wished to speak about the legality of council members accepting campaign contributions from contractors who had applied for and received no-bid contracts from the council. Councilman Christopher Roberts was presiding as chair of the meeting.

         When Heaney had been speaking for about three minutes, he was interrupted by Roberts, who asked if he would yield the floor to the Parish Attorney, Ms. Foshee. Heaney believed that he would receive the balance of his time after Ms. Foshee finished speaking given that a prior speaker had been given the balance of her time after yielding. Ms. Foshee spoke for several minutes, expressing her opinion that the council's actions were legal. After she finished speaking, Heaney asked Roberts, "May I have my time back?" and Roberts responded, "Yes, how much time do we have?" Heaney then expressed his wish to challenge the Parish Attorney's opinion. At that point, he was interrupted again by Roberts:

Roberts: Let me, we've had this conversation before, ok?
Heaney: Are you trying to stop me from speaking?
Roberts: Well you yielded and I do have the floor . . . so . . . I'm not going to turn this into a circus, ok? If you don't believe what Ms.
Foshee's comments were-
Heaney: I-
Roberts: Let me finish. Last I checked, Ms. Foshee had a law degree hanging on the wall in her office. If you're challenging whether or not what she's saying to be accurate or not, you can go right to the elevator downstairs. The Clerk of Court's office is there, and you're welcome to file suit. This is not the forum for you to challenge the opinion of the parish attorney, ok?
Heaney: Now if I can be able to speak-
Roberts: No, let me finish. Let me finish. Once again, I'm going to ask you, are you an attorney?
Heaney: I don't have to be an attorney to read and comprehend a decision-
Roberts: But I'm not going to sit here and have you berate the parish attorney.
Heaney: I have a decision. I have a decision by HUD that contradicts what Ms. Foshee says-
Roberts: Sir, ok. Your time's up and I'm going to ask that you be removed because you're being hostile so ...

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