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Civil Rights — freedom of speech — qualified immunity

United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit


Civil Rights — freedom of speech — qualified immunity

Where a citizen was denied any opportunity to speak at a city council meeting, the official is not entitled to qualified immunity on the citizen’s civil rights claim.

“Hyde contends that for Surita to avoid his qualified immunity defense Surita had to prove that he intended to suppress speech on the basis of its content. This court discussed in Hansen v. Bennett the importation of the intent requirement for a First Amendment claim into the objective qualified immunity standard, finding that the plaintiff must show that a reasonable person in the defendant’s position, ‘“that is, one acting on [defendant’s] information and motivated by [defendant’s] purpose,” would have known that ejecting [plaintiff from a public hearing] violated his clearly established rights.’ 948 F.2d 397, 399 n.4 (7th Cir. 1991). Here, Hyde’s purpose in silencing Surita is apparent from his words at the city council meeting: he demanded that Surita apologize to Figueroa before he would be allowed to speak. A reasonable person in January 2004 would have known that silencing Surita for that purpose was constitutionally impermissible. Thus, the denial of qualified immunity on this theory is affirmed.”

Affirmed in part, and Reversed in part.

09-1165 Surita v. Hyde

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Shadur, J., Clevert, J.

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