Barilla v. City of Houston, No. 20-20535 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of the City's motion to dismiss for lack of standing an action brought by plaintiff, a professional musician and accordionist, challenging three City ordinances which restrict busking in Houston. Plaintiff alleges that the ordinances violate his First Amendment right to free expression.
The court agreed with plaintiff that the district court adopted an erroneously restrictive pleading standard for his First Amendment claim. The court concluded that, in pre-enforcement cases alleging a violation of the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause, the Supreme Court has recognized that chilled speech or self-censorship is an injury sufficient to confer standing. The court explained that a plaintiff bringing such a challenge need not have experienced "an actual arrest, prosecution, or other enforcement action" to establish standing. In this case, the complaint alleged that plaintiff intends to engage in conduct arguably affected with a constitutional interest; plaintiff's desired conduct is arguably proscribed by the ordinances; and he previously received a busking permit from the City—indicating recent enforcement of the permitting provision—which bolsters his entitlement to the substantial-threat-of-enforcement presumption. Therefore, plaintiff has adequately pleaded a justiciable injury and has standing to maintain his lawsuit at this stage. The court remanded for further proceedings. The court dismissed plaintiff's appeal of the district court's order denying his motion for reconsideration or leave to amend as moot.