The Coldwater City Council admitted it was unconstitutional to stop a tea party group from displaying its signs in a city park and rescinded its ordinance banning signs on Monday.
The city of Coldwater also agreed to pay the legal costs of $8,347.50 for the tea party Common Sense Patriots of Branch County. The tea party group agreed to dismiss its federal lawsuit it had filed in early April.
“Neither the Coldwater City Council or the City Manager ever intended to restrict the First Amendment Rights of the Plaintiffs or any other person,” said John Hutchinson, the City of Coldwater legal counsel, in an email. “On the two occasions that the ‘Common Sense Patriots’ have raised First Amendment concerns with the City, the City of Coldwater responded immediately to assure that there was no infringement. The City of Coldwater will continue to be sensitive to the First Amendment rights of all people.”
Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, gave credit to Hutchinson for recognizing the ordinance was unconstitutional and taking quick action to rescind it once the lawsuit was filed.
“I would applaud their attorney for realizing that,” Thompson said.
In November, the City of Coldwater banned all signs at its Four Corners public park where the Common Sense Patriots had held numerous rallies.
The Thomas More Law Center law firm filed a federal lawsuit in early April over the infringement of free speech. Attorney Robert Muise said that Coldwater City Manager Jeff Budd objected to the signs because the Common Sense Patriots were “too political” and “too controversial.”
Thompson said the $8,347.50 in legal fees were not what his firm charged Common Sense Patriots, but what would have been awarded in reasonable costs had Thomas More Law Center won the case in court. Thompson said federal law states the defendant must pay reasonable attorney fees if it loses a case based on constitutional law.