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Church lacks standing to appeal order preventing erection of crosses on city property

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An Evansville church that sought to display multiple six-foot-tall crosses along the city’s public Riverfront cannot appeal the court order that prevents the city from allowing the display, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

West Side Christian Church sought a right of way permit from the city last spring to erect 31 plastic crosses decorated by children attending Bible school. The city’s legal counsel believed the display would be allowed as long as there was no “Jesus saves” language on the display. The city board of public works approved the display, but Chris Cabral and Nancy Tarsitano filed a legal challenge in federal court.

The District Court ruled Evansville is permanently enjoined from permitting the cross display because it is an impermissible endorsement of religion that violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

The city didn’t appeal, but the church did.

The 7th Circuit decided it didn’t need to address West Side’s arguments on appeal because it lacks standing to pursue the appeal. The District Court ruled the display violated Cabral’s and Tarsitano’s First Amendment rights and its entry of an injunction does not injure West Side in any way that the appeals court can redress, Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote in Chris Cabral and Nancy Tarsitano v. City of Evansville, Ind.; Appeal of: West Side Christian Church, 13-2914.

If the court were to vacate the injunction, it would be up to Evansville as to whether to allow the church to display the crosses.

“That fact dooms West Side’s redressability argument because if were we to vacate the injunction, we could only speculate as to whether West Side’s injury would be redressed, and such speculation is not enough to support standing.

If West Side applies again for a permit and the city denies it, the church would then have standing to file a lawsuit and challenge the denial.

“We caution, however, that West Side’s road ahead might not necessarily get any easier if it ever attains standing to challenge the injunction. We question whether a reasonable observer would be put on notice that the “Cross the River” display is strictly private speech given the sheer magnitude of a display that takes up four blocks and has two signs alerting citizens that it is a private display,” Williams wrote. “However, because that issue is not before us, we need not resolve it at this point.”

 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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