Don Padou, '11, Wins at DC Ct. of Appeals
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Posted by: Joe Libertelli
On Thursday, June 17, the DC Court of Appeals handed down a decision (.pdf)
reversing a summary judgment against rising 3L student Don Padou and his wife Abigail in their First Amendment case against the District of Columbia.
In 2008 the neighborhood where the Padous live, Brookland, wanted the District to bury the overhead power lines as part of the Brookland Streetscape Project. The District refused. The neighborhood planned a rally to pressure the government to bury the power lines. Don and his wife paid for and hung posters on telephone poles to promote the rally, but the District tore the posters down.
The Padous sued alleging violation of the First Amendment, asserting that the regulation governing the hanging of posters (24 DCMR 108) was unconstitutional as applied and is facially unconstitutional. The District moved for summary judgment and prevailed. The Padous prevailed on appeal and the case has been remanded for discovery and further proceedings.According to the Court of Appeals, "The judge undoubtedly believed that the Padous had conducted themselves well during the evidentiary hearings, telling Mr. Padou: "I was very impressed with your
presentation, and it’s hard to believe that you’re not a lawyer. So thank you very much for
the fine job you did.” Unfortunately, the trial judge apparently missed the fact that the Padous had repeatedly alleged that the District law was unconstitutional "as applied," mistook their argument for one of equal protection, and denied the Padous the right to discovery, which would have included the right to interview the DC employee who they believe selectively removed their First Amendment-protected political posters while leaving other posters on the same poles untouched.
While the opinion did not reach the constitutional issues, but was remanded on procedural grounds, the decision further clarifies and strengthens the rights of pro se plaintiffs in the future.
Carl Messineo and Mara Verheyden-Hilliard filed a brief for amicus curiae the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and the National Lawyers Guild, in support of appellants.
Congratulations, Don and Abigail!