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Florissant, ACLU-EM Reach Agreement in Political Signs Lawsuit

The City will pay $6,000 in legal fees to ACLU-EM and $1 to M. Christine BredenKoetter over the lawsuit.

The and the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri (ACLU-EM) reached a consent judgment Tuesday regarding the political signs lawsuit filed last year.

said the city won the suit, but the city had to pay a portion of the legal fees as well as pay M. Christine BredenKoetter $1 for the inconvenience of removing the sign. The ACLU filed the suit on BredenKoetter's behalf.

“I’m offended the lawsuit was filed,” Hessel said. “The lawsuit should have never been filed.”

Following the lawsuit’s filing, the City Council amended the ordinance in February and again in June to eliminate restrictions on the political signs. Hessel said that the ordinance as it stands now, with its amendments, “satisfies the court interpretation of the first amendment.”

According to the ACLU-EM press release, the judge ruled that the original ordinance did restrict BredenKoetter’s right to free speech by removing the sign.

“We challenged the city of Florissant’s ordinance regarding the duration, time, size, and number limitations for political yard signs, and the specialized enforcement mechanism for political signs, which allowed the mayor to order signs removed from yards,” Tony Rothert, legal director for the ACLU-EM, said in a press release. 

“In election years, yard signs pop up as predictably as dandelions,” Brenda L. Jones, executive director of the ACLU-EM, said in a press release. “Local governments can’t infringe on this free speech right by treating political signs different from other types of commercial yard signs.”

Hessel said that the city will pay 25-30 percent, or $6,000, of legal fees incurred by the ACLU-EM.

Maria Jansen April 19, 2012 at 04:06 PM
I haven't had much experience with lawsuits, but it seems strange that if the city won, they had to pay some of the other side's legal fees. Did they win on some of the challenges, but not others or something? Sounds like both sides are saying they won. It seems a little fuzzy still.
MaryElizabeth Dorsey April 19, 2012 at 08:31 PM
According to Missouri Lawyers Media the city is costs of $650 plus attorneys fees of $7732.50 plus $1 to Christine BredenKoetter plus attorneys fees to John Hessel so what is the total cost of the lawsuit?
MaryElizabeth Dorsey April 19, 2012 at 10:26 PM
The ACLU received money because they won. The judge found the ordinance unconstitutional. You don't pay out money in a lawsuit when you win. You payout money in a lawsuit when you lose.
Michael O'Fallon April 20, 2012 at 05:24 PM
As much as I dislike the ACLU and most of the positions they defend, they were on the right side this time around. I also dislike the fact that this had to go to court to convince the city their ordinance was an infringement on political free speech. I'm OK with the ACLU being compensated for their services, just as I am OK with any professional being compensated for services rendered.
Aja J. Junior April 23, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Both parties agreed on the settlement, which is why it's a "consent judgment." The defendant, in this case the city, was still held responsible for legal fees. The total amount of the lawsuit, from what I understand, was more than $20,000.

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