U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of the Western District of Texas has issued a final judgment in favor of two plaintiffs who received criminal-trespass notices for occupying the plaza in front of Austin’s City Hall during last fall’s Occupy Austin protests.

Yetter Coleman associate Ryan Bates, who represents plaintiffs Rodolfo Sanchez and Kristopher Sleeman, says the victory is “a clear message to this city that, if they have established City Hall’s plaza as a front porch, they can’t tell people not to come back; that is crucial to our local democracy.”

In his Sept. 27 final judgment, Yeakel declared unconstitutional City Administrative Bulletin 110-4, which the city of Austin promulgated during the height of the Occupy protests in November 2011. Yeakel also enjoined the city from enforcing 110-4. According to Yeakel’s Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law, the bulletin, known as the policy, established rules and procedures for issuing and reviewing criminal-trespass notices to those engaged in activities on public lands owned by the city — including the plaza, which both sides had stipulated was “a free-speech venue.”

The plaintiffs alleged in an amended complaint that the city used the trespass notices to effectively ban the plaintiffs from the plaza and argued that the city’s policy was facially unconstitutional “due to its lack of objective standards, vagueness, and overbreadth,” Yeakel wrote. The plaintiffs also asserted that the administrative-review procedure of those trespass notices violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of due process, Yeakel wrote. The plaintiffs sought injunctive relief.

According to Yeakel’s findings, the city argued in response that “it has a substantial interest in . . . ensuring that the Plaza remains readily available to other members of the public, and that its policy does not single out any type of speech or provide differential treatment based on the idea expressed.” Also the City asserted “that its policy is narrowly tailored . . . it only temporarily restricts the use of one City-owned building or land; and it allows ample alternative channels for communication,” including a park across the street from the plaza, Yeakel wrote.

But in the findings, Yeakel concluded: “The City’s policy prevents a banned person from engaging in any form of speech, assembly, or other protected activity at the Plaza for the duration of the ban. The policy imposes such a ban without first using less restrictive alternatives, including as Plaintiffs suggest, the enforcement of existing criminal sanctions.”

Christine Edwards, an assistant city attorney who represents Austin, notes that Yeakel did not award the damages the plaintiffs had sought, only litigation expenses.

Bates says his clients will file a motion to seek those expenses, including attorney fees. Bates notes that he never expected big damages but was pursuing a principle.

Edwards says the city has not yet decided on any plans to appeal.

Previous Litigators of the Week:

• Litigator of the Week: Multimillion-Dollar Shale Victory
• Litigator of the Week: Fair Labor Victory
• Litigator of the Week: Eagle Ford Shale Trade Secrets Win
• Litigator of the Week: $38 Million in Cellphone
Antenna Infringement Case
• Litigator of the Week: Finishing First
• Litigator of the Week: The Need for Speed
• Litigator of the Week: Bumpy Bus Ride Leads to 
$100K for Injuries
• Litigator of the Week: Making the Case for Mental Anguish Damages
• Non-Profit Gets a Post-Trial Surprise from Jury Forewoman
• Litigator of the Week: Houston Lawyer Fends Off Pet Store’s DTPA Claim
• Litigator of the Week: Scalding Accident Leads to $12 Million Verdict
• Litigator of the Week: Nonprofits Don’t Owe Millions in Property Taxes
• Litigator of the Week: Beating the FTC
• Litigator of the Week: Moving Quickly
• Litigator of the Week: Want to Buy Some Rocks?
• Litigator of the Week: Mining Hypothetical Profits
• Litigator of the Week: Patents Invalid
• Litigator of the Week: Nearly $4 Million in Fees
• Litigator of the Week: $1.9 Million in Negligence Case
• Litigator of the Week: No-Show No Problem
• Litigator of the Week: Take-Nothing Verdict
• Litigator of the Week: Termite Trouble
• Litigator of the Week: Proof and Loser Pays
• Litigator of the Week: Arbitration Acumen
• Litigator of the Week: An Emotional Win
• Litigator of the Week: The Peanut Butter Warehouse Lofts Project
• Litigator of the Week: Devon’s Data-Driven Suit
• Litigator of the Week: Man on a Mission
• Litigator of the Week: RICO Suave
• Litigator of the Week: Drill Rig Mast Collapse
• Litigator of the Week: Last of the Water-Damage Cases?
• Litigator of the Week: Victory Over the Tax Man
• Litigator of the Week: $3.2 Million Victory
• Litigator of the Week: Kevin Hedges
• Litigator of the Week: Sink Re-Enactment Critical to Win
• Litigator of the Week: The Man With a Plan
• Litigator of the Week: Victory Is Sweet
• Litigator of the Week: A Trade Secrets Test
• Litigator of the Week: Do-Over More Than Doubles Award
• Litigator of the Week: Aftermath of Hurricane Ike
• Litigator of the Week: Gone, But Not Forgotten
• Litigators of the Week: $60 Million More
• Litigator of the Week: Patent War Chest
• Litigator of the Week: A Pound of Flesh