“This case is about a tree house.” Lepper v. Vill. of Babylon, 18CV7011JMAAYS, 2022 WL 939719, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 29, 2022).  In a recent federal case out of Long Island, NY, plaintiffs John and Noelle Lepper and their minor children brought an action against the Village of Babylon and several Village officials. The plaintiffs asserted a slew of constitutional claims related to a tree house that the plaintiffs constructed on their property.  Their claims included, among others, First Amendment retaliation, violations of due process and equal protection, excessive fines in violation of the Eight Amendment, and conspiracy.

Mr. Lepper first began constructing a tree house in his yard after finding a hypodermic needle on the ground near where his children play.  The plaintiffs did not apply for a building permit prior to construction, despite the fact that the Village required building permits for tree houses, playgrounds, and outdoor gyms with lot areas of over 90 square feet.

Continue Reading U.S. District Court Rejects Tree House Builder’s Federal Claims

Allegations of a politically motivated lay-off were the subject of a recent U.S. District Court decision out of Gary, Indiana.  In Moore v. Calumet Township of Lake City, Plaintiff Marsha Moore filed suit against Calumet Township of Lake County and the Calumet Township Trustee, Kimberly Robinson, claiming that Defendants violated her First Amendment right to political association when they terminated her employment. 2:18-CV-106-TLS, 2022 WL 196366, at *1 (N.D. Ind. Jan. 21, 2022).  In 2014, Ms. Moore, who had worked in the Calumet Township Trustee Office since 1990, actively supported and campaigned for the reelection of her then-supervisor, Mary Elgin, to the Township Trustee position.  Ms. Robinson, one of the defendants, was the opposing candidate in the race.  On several occasions Ms. Robinson witnessed the plaintiff campaigning in an Elgin t-shirt, holding an Elgin sign, and displaying an Elgin bumper sticker on her car.

Continue Reading Political Association Claims Brought by Fired Government Employee Survive Summary Judgment

It was only a few weeks ago that the winter holidays were upon us, and with them came the usual seasonal festivities: ice skating, caroling, or perhaps a ride on a horse-drawn carriage.  But to animal rights activists in Frederick, Maryland, horse-drawn carriage rides are not a source of holiday cheer, but rather a form of animal cruelty. In Saltz v. City of Frederick, MD, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland recently addressed the First Amendment claims of one animal rights activist. 538 F. Supp. 3d 510 (D. Md. 2021).

Plaintiff Jason Saltz sued the City of Frederick and four police officers employed by the City under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the defendants violated his First Amendment rights by denying him the ability to chant against horse-drawn carriages from a position located directly across the street from where carriage riders were waiting to embark on their rides.  He also claimed that his rights were infringed when the defendants prevented him from handing out leaflets and engaging in peaceful discussion with people waiting in line to ride.  Id. at 523.

The defendants had set up a designated “First Amendment Area” for Mr. Saltz and his fellow animal rights protestors, pursuant to an operations plan issued by the Frederick police department. Id. at 527–529.
Continue Reading U.S. District Court in Maryland Upholds Animal Rights Protestor’s First Amendment Claims