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Who are John DuBois, Suzy DuBois, Tracy Pielemeier, Kristen Burkman, and Ginny Kelleher and why are they important?

When Crown Castle was unhappy with a decision by the City of Westfield, Indiana denying a cell site application, they sued Westfield in state court. The case is:

Crown Castle Towers 06-2 LLC v. City of Westfield, Tracy Pielemeier, Ginny Kelleheret al, Case No. 29C01-1511-MI-009308.

Of course Crown Castle sued the City of Westfield.  No surprise there. But Crown Castle through its attorneys took the nearly unheard of step of suing John DuBois, Suzy DuBois, Tracy Pielemeier, Kristen Burkman, and Ginny Kelleher, all of whom spoke out against Crown Castle’s project at a City of Westfield public hearing.

Okay, Crown Castle said in a statement delivered to the local press that they no choice to include John DuBois, Suzy DuBois, Tracy Pielemeier, Kristen Burkman, and Ginny Kelleher in the suit. Hogwash. It was, I believe, a stupid and ill-sighted move to stifle future public comment on matters of public interest, specifically pending cell site applications.

SLAPP and ANTI-SLAPP

I’m not expert on Indiana law, but Indiana has an “ANTI-SLAPP” statute designed to quash law suits filed to stifle political speech in public forums. A SLAPP is a “strategic law suit against public participation” and an ANTI-SLAPP is a law suit to quash the SLAPP.  See the Digital Medial Law Project website for more information on SLAPPs and ANTI-SLAPPs in Indiana.  It seems to me that Crown Castle’s inclusion of John DuBois, Suzy DuBois, Tracy Pielemeier, Kristen Burkman, and Ginny Kelleher in the suit against the City of Westfield amounted to a SLAPP.

Had Crown Castle (or any other similarly-situated plaintiff) included as law suit defendants parties merely testifying against it at a public hearing in California or New Mexico, where I am licensed to practice law, I would have immediately recommended filing an ANTI-SLAPP to dismiss those parties.  They simply wanted their voices to be heard during the public hearing on a matter of public concern. I would have also recommend seeking attorneys fees against Crown Castle on behalf of the SLAPPed defendants.

Apologies are Due

I believe that Crown Castle and its local counsel of record, Matthew Price, Esq., Scott Leisz, Esq., and Joshua Burress, Esq. jointly owe John DuBois, Suzy DuBois, Tracy Pielemeier, Kristen Burkman, and Ginny Kelleher a public apology.  They should also publicly commit to not making law suit defendants out of those who speak against Crown Castle at public hearings.

Sue the public agency for denying a cell site application? Fine. Let the decision stand the test of the Act and other laws.  Sue the public who stand up against Crown Castle at a public hearing? Not fine.

Judge Felix’s April 15, 2016 opinion, remanding the case back for further hearings, can be found HERE.

jlk

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