Galena v. Leone, No. 10-1914 (3d Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
An Erie County resident had spoken during the public part of 14-15 council meetings before he attempted to object to a motion on an ordinance after the close of public comments. After being told that he was out of order, the resident continued to assert violation of the Sunshine Act and was escorted out. The chair sent a letter stating that the resident could be banned from future meetings if he was disruptive. The district court dismissed civil rights claims (42 U.S.C. 1983), except against the chair. A jury awarded $5,000, but the court entered judgment in favor of the chair. The Third Circuit affirmed. The meeting was a limited public forum, so the council had the right to impose narrowly-tailored, reasonable content-neutral, time, place, and manner restrictions. The resident had adequate alternatives for raising objections to procedures used in adopting ordinances; the evidence did not establish that the chair intended to suppress his message because of content or personal hostility. The only difference between the resident and other speakers at the meeting was the timing of his comments. Because the resident had waived the claim, the court declined to consider whether the council satisfied the state Sunshine Act by reserving time for public comment, but held that the Act does not change the scope of First Amendment rights.