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Constitutional Law — freedom of speech — retaliation

United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit


Constitutional Law — freedom of speech — retaliation

A First Amendment suit, alleging that a refusal to rezone property was retaliation for bringing a state court lawsuit, was properly dismissed.

“The plaintiff’s second ground of attack is that the denial of rezoning was in retaliation for her bringing the state court suit. The filing of a lawsuit can be an exercise of the First Amendment right of free speech if, as in ‘cause’ litigation, the suit articulates public concerns. NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 429-30 (1963); Chicago United Industries, Ltd. v. City of Chicago, 669 F.3d 847, 852 (7th Cir. 2012); Glatt v. Chicago Park District, 87 F.3d 190, 193 (7th Cir. 1996); Yatvin v. Madison Metropolitan School District, 840 F.2d 412, 419-20 (7th Cir. 1988). But the sole aim of the plaintiff’s zoning suit was to enhance the value of her property. A suit such as hers, designed to rectify a private grievance, could however be protected by the petition clause of the First Amendment against retaliation. Borough of Duryea v. Guarnieri, 131 S. Ct. 2488, 2498 (2011). But there would be no need to bring the heavy artillery of a federal lawsuit into play, because state remedies would be entirely adequate. The Illinois courts can take effective measures against persons, including local government officials, in Illinois who try to punish people who turn to those courts for relief, as the plaintiff in this case did. Batagiannis v. West Lafayette Community School Corp., 454 F.3d 738, 742-43 (7th Cir. 2006); Woodruff v. Mason, 542 F.3d 545, 560-61 (7th Cir. 2008) (concurring opinion).”


11-3452 Guth v. Tazewell County

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Shadid, J., Posner, J.

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