Sunday, March 12, 2023

Latest Attempt to Prevent City from Removing Cross from Public Park Fails On Procedural Grounds

Lion's Club of Albany, California v. City of Albany, (ND CA, March 9, 2023), is the latest installment in the ongoing litigation over the removal of a 28-foot tall, illuminated Latin cross located in a park which the city has purchased. (See prior related posting.) The Lioin's Club has an easement allowing it access to the cross to maintain it. After a prior decision finding that the city violated the Establishment Clause when it purchased the park and left the cross standing, the city instituted eminent domain proceedings in state court to acquire the easement so it could remove the cross. The state trial court judge granted the city prejudgment possession of the easement so the city could take down the cross and store it in a safe place pending the outcome of the eminent domain proceedings. The Lion's Club asked the state court of appeals to stay the trial court's order. That petition was denied for technical reasons that could have been cured. Instead, the Lion's Club came back to federal court seeking a temporary restraining order to prohibit removal of the cross.  In this decision, the court denied that request invoking the Rooker-Feldman doctrine which requires a federal court to dismiss a case when the plaintiff is essentially attempting to appeal a state court decision through the lower federal courts rather than by filing appeals through state court channels.