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McClanahan v. Wilson

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

July 31, 2019

MICHAEL McCLANAHAN, ET AL.
v.
SCOTT WILSON, ETAL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          John W. deGravelles United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Strike Defendants' Jury Demand (Doc. 32) filed by Plaintiffs Michael McClanahan, Gary Chambers, and Eugene Collins (collectively, "Plaintiffs"). Defendants City of Baton Rouge and Scott Wilson ("Wilson") (collectively, "Defendants") oppose the motion. (Doc. 35.) Plaintiffs have filed a reply. (Doc. 36.) The Court has carefully considered the law, the facts in the record, and the arguments and submissions of the parties and, for oral reasons assigned at the July 25, 2019, pretrial conference, granted Plaintiffs motion. The Court now assigns these written reasons.

         I. Relevant Background

         This suit arises from a Baton Rouge Metro Council meeting which took place on May 10, 2017. (First Amended Complaint ("FAC”) ¶¶ 2-11, Doc. 2.) Plaintiffs are leaders in the African-American community. (Id. ¶ 5.) Scott Wilson was the Mayor Pro-Tempore of the Metro Council who was in charge of running council meetings. (Id. ¶ 19.)

         Plaintiffs allege that they attempted to speak at this council meeting about the Alton Sterling shooting and their criticism of the Baton Rouge Police Department. (Id. ¶¶ 2-3.) However, as soon as Plaintiffs and others "said the words 'Alton Sterling,' 'Chief Dabadie,' or 'police department' - or gave any indication that's what they were there to talk about," Wilson ordered that the police remove them. (Id. ¶ 4.) Plaintiffs claim that this contrasted with Wilson's treatment of other speakers who were allowed to finish their time, regardless of whether they stayed on topic or discussed agenda items. (Id. ¶ 10.)

         Plaintiffs claim that Defendants violated their First Amendment rights by silencing their speech. Specifically, Plaintiffs assert:

For these reasons, Plaintiffs seek a declaration from this Court that Scott Wilson's behavior of silencing the Plaintiffs based in the viewpoint expressed violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Louisiana State Constitution. To enforce these rights afforded by the United States Constitution, Plaintiffs bring this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for declaratory relief against Scott Wilson's viewpoint discrimination. Plaintiffs also seek to recover all their attorneys' fees, costs and expenses incurred in this action and any other relief that this Court may order. They are not seeking money damages.

(FAC ¶ 12, Doc. 2 (emphasis added).) Plaintiffs also seek no damages in their prayer for relief:

         VII. PRAYER FOR RELIEF

THEREFORE, Plaintiffs respectfully request that this Court enter the following relief:
A. Enter a declaratory judgment, specifying Defendants' constitutional violations and declaring the rights of the Plaintiffs;
B. Enter a declaratory judgment, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201, declaring that Scott Wilson's removal of Plaintiffs was unconstitutional and in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
C. Award Plaintiffs their costs and reasonable attorneys' fees incurred in this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12205, 42 U.S.C. § 1988, 28 C.F.R. § 35.175, and 29 U.S.C. § 794a(b); D. Order such other and further relief, at law or in equity, to which Plaintiffs may be justly entitled.

(FAC, Doc. 2 at 23.)

         The Uniform Pretrial Order ("PTO”) captures the heart of the instant motion. Specifically, the PTO contains the following statement from the parties:

This matter is designated as a jury trial. Plaintiffs contest this designation, as they did not request a jury trial, nor do Defendants have any right to a jury trial Defendants ...

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