Rebuffed in 2003, members of the Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace marched in Brainerd's 2004 Fourth of July Parade. The reactions they received ranged from cheers and encouragement to boos and opponents turning their backs to them.
The initial conflict came in the summer of 2003, when the Brainerd Community Action board of directors rejected the anti-war activists' bid to march in the Fourth of July parade. The board cited security concerns voiced by the city attorney and police chief.
BACP members, who had indicated they were considering a lawsuit on the grounds that their First Amendment rights had been violated, came to an agreement with the city of Brainerd and Community Action in March. The mediated settlement called for the group to be welcomed in the 2004 parade. It also called for a public symposium on free speech to be conducted at the expense of the League of Minnesota Cities or its insurance trust. The BACP said the settlement meant the end of any and all claims it may have had against the city and Community Action.
Members of the Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace marched in Brainerd's Fourth of July parade after a March out-of-court settlement among the anti-war group, the city of Brainerd and Brainerd Community Action, stipulating the peace group would be welcome in the parade. The controversy also sparked a Brainerd Dispatch lawsuit against the city, alleging a violation of the Open Meeting Law. Brainerd Dispatch/File photo
The free speech symposium, conducted July 21 at Central Lakes College, featured Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Sam Hanson, Minnetonka City Attorney Desyl Peterson and legal scholars.
Although the peace group settled its claims with the city and Community Action, a lawsuit did arise out of the controversy.
The Brainerd Dispatch filed a lawsuit in August 2003 against the city of Brainerd and five council members alleging they wrongly met in a closed session July 25, 2003, to discuss the threat of a lawsuit from the peace group.
The city council said it closed the meeting on the advice of its attorney, that the meeting was proper, necessary and lawful and thus there could be no intentional violation of the Open Meeting Law.
In April, Crow Wing County District Court Judge Richard Zimmerman denied the Brainerd Dispatch's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the complaint filed against the city. The Dispatch announced a month later it would appeal the decision.
On Jan. 6, a Minnesota Court of Appeals three-judge panel in St. Paul is scheduled to hear the appeal of the previously dismissed lawsuit.
Attorney George Hoff is representing the city and Attorney Mark Anfinson is representing the Brainerd Dispatch.
In its lawsuit, the Brainerd Dispatch cites the 2002 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling in Prior Lake American v. Mader, in which the Supreme Court said the attorney-client privilege applies "only when the balancing of the purposes served by the attorney-client privilege against those served by the Open Meeting Law dictates the need for absolute confidentiality."
Hoff and Anfinson were the attorneys in the 2002 Minnesota Supreme Court case.
MIKE O'ROURKE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5860.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.