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Monday, November 9, 2015

Officers Immune for Actions in Banning Person from City Meetings and Property

Open meetings laws protect the rights of the public to attend meetings of government boards and councils so the public can witness the policies and actions of its elected or appointed officials in person. However, these rights are not unlimited, and circumstances may prevent members of the public from witnessing all government activities. For example, most state meetings laws allow government bodies to close a portion of a meeting to discuss confidential matters, such as litigation and personnel issues.  Another example would involve a public body banning a particular member of the public because of disruptive behavior.  Today's post involves this latter situation. Vincent v. City of Sulphur.

During an altercation at a bank, an individual threatened to kill the Sulphor Louisiana mayor and a city councilman. Police investigated, and ultimately issued a "no-trespass" order prohibiting the individual from entering certain city property.  The individual sued, claiming that his due process rights, among others, were violated by issuance of the no-trespass order.

On appeal, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the officers were entitled to immunity for their actions in issuing the no-trespass order for two reasons. First, the order was reasonably limited as it only applied during the period of time the officers were investigating the charges against the individual subject to the order. Second, the nature of the city's security interests were greater than the individual's right to prior notice and a hearing, as the justification for the order was to protect two city officials from potential future violence. Because the officers were immune, the court did not need to reach the question as to whether they violated the individual's due process rights.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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