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Judge wants Racine bar owners’ suit to narrow focus

By: Eric Heisig//August 1, 2014

Judge wants Racine bar owners’ suit to narrow focus

By: Eric Heisig//August 1, 2014

A federal judge has ordered eight minority bar owners who are suing Racine city officials to refile their complaint, saying that the suit needs to be more narrow.

Eastern District of Wisconsin Judge J.P. Stadtmueller wrote, in an order filed Wednesday, that the complaint, filed in February, is “much too vague to provide any meaningful notice to the defendants of the respective plaintiffs’ claims.”

According to the order:

“One of the first giveaways that the plaintiffs’ complaint may have problems is the fact that it totally fails to clarify who is making which of these claims against whom and in what capacity. Rather than work with a rifle, the plaintiffs unholstered their bazooka: without any clarifying language in the complaint, it seems clear that each plaintiff intends to allege each claim against each defendant (and in the case of the individual defendants, those claims are against them in each of their capacities – official and individual).”

The judge ordered the plaintiffs to refile the petition within 21 days.

The lawsuit accused Mayor John Dickert, the city of Racine, its police and other current and former officials preventing minority bar owners from acquiring or renewing their liquor licenses.

It also accuses Dickert of accepting illegal financial contributions from the local tavern league and rewarding the league’s white members with the newly surrendered liquor licenses or high-level city positions.

Marty Kohler, an attorney with Kohler & Hart SC, Milwaukee who is representing the plaintiffs, did not immediately return a phone call Friday.

Stadtmueller’s order notes that he is not ruling that the lawsuit is baseless or without merit.

“In fact, their general allegations suggest a case with serious potential that should proceed to discovery,” Stadtmueller wrote.

Kohler said in February that the suit started small and grew from there. He also said an earlier version of the 50-page lawsuit was even longer.

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