Case Overview

Action

"The existence of probable cause does not bar Lozman’s First Amendment retaliation claim under the circumstances of this case."

Facts/Syllabus

"After petitioner Lozman towed his floating home into a slip in a marina owned by the city of Riviera Beach, he became an outspoken critic of the City’s plan to use its eminent domain power to seize waterfront homes for private development and often made critical comments about officials during the public-comment period of city council meetings. He also filed a lawsuit alleging that the City Council’s approval of an agreement with developers violated Florida’s open-meetings laws. In June 2006 the Council held a closed-door session, in part to discuss Lozman’s lawsuit. He alleges that the meeting’s transcript shows that councilmembers devised an official plan to intimidate him, and that many of his subsequent disputes with city officials and employees were part of the City’s retaliation plan. Five months after the closed-door meeting, the Council held a public meeting. During the public-comment session, Lozman began to speak about the arrests of officials from other jurisdictions. When he refused a councilmember’s request to stop making his remarks, the councilmember told the police officer in attendance to 'carry him out.' The officer handcuffed Lozman and ushered him out of the meeting. The City contends that he was arrested for violating the City Council’s rules of procedure by discussing issues unrelated to the City and then refusing to leave the podium. Lozman claims that his arrest was to retaliate for his lawsuit and his prior public criticisms of city officials. The State’s attorney determined that there was probable cause for his arrest, but decided to dismiss the charges. Lozman then filed suit under 42 U. S. C. §1983, alleging a number of incidents that, under his theory, showed the City’s purpose was to harass him, including by initiating an admiralty lawsuit against his floating home[.]"

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