Boulder judge rejects restraining order against city's most annoying critic
Update: Today, Judge David Archuleta rejected Boulder's request for a permanent restraining order against Seth Brigham, a vocal critic whom a workplace-violence expert deemed dangerous without having met him and sans any actual attacks or explicit threats; see our previous coverage below. Brigham is exultant over the ruling, and so is his attorney, David Lane, who drops anvil-sized hints that he'll soon sue the city over the affair.
As we've reported, Brigham was served with a restraining order after the city provided Dr. John Nicoletti with copies of e-mails accusing Boulder City Councilwoman KC Becker of financial impropriety, as well as information involving verbal jousting, F-bombs and occasional jabs and pushes involving other councilmembers. Brigham responded by contacting Lane, who'd represented him two years earlier after he was arrested for stripping to his boxer shorts at a council meeting -- an incident that led to Boulder paying a $10,000 settlement to make the matter go away.
In the latest case, Lane argued that because Boulder hadn't demonstrated that Brigham was dangerous, the city was violating his First Amendment rights by attempting to ban him from future council meetings and the like. And Judge Archuleta agreed. Here's an excerpt from his "Orders Denying Permanent Protection Order," on view below in its entirety:
Judge David Archuleta.
I find that the Petitioners have failed to meet their burden to prove that a restraining order should enter in this case. Although I do not believe that Petitioners necessarily intended to silence Respondent's political speech it is clear to me that approving a permanent protection order in this case would do just that, and that they haven't satisfied the Protection Order statute in any event....
Although I have considered this case very carefully, given the strongly held and well-articulated positions of each party, this case is not a particularly compelling one for me. The threat posed by the Respondent is not imminent and the request for the permanent protection order must, therefore, be denied.
That sounds like the final word, but it's not. Archuleta subsequently goes into detail about the case, placing particular emphasis on an affidavit filed on Brigham's behalf by councilmember Lisa Morzel. She describes Brigham as a "pest" and a "gadfly," but argues that there are remedies to deal with him other than a permanent restraining order. The judge concurs, writing, "If City Council is concerned the Respondent is violating its rules of decorum or procedure, they should have him removed from the Council chambers. If any Council Member believes they are threatened by the Respondent's words or actions they should contact the police to lodge a criminal complaint." But a blanket ban of Brigham, he believes, is neither justified nor supported by the facts.
In an e-mail reply to Lane, Brigham reacted to the ruling by writing, "WONDERFUL!!!! I COULD TELL YOU MORE ABOUT HOW THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY!!!!" We subsequently sent him some specific questions and (update) he sent a long and passionate response on view below.
In the meantime, Lane says he is "extremely happy with the ruling. Finally, someone inside the Boulder city limits has read the Constitution and understands the First Amendment.
"The law has never allowed simply being annoying to justify having a restraining order put on you," he goes on. "And Seth agrees that he's annoying. He's trying to be annoying. That's what gadflies are supposed to do, and that's what the First Amendment allows and encourages them to do."
What's next? Quite possibly more legal action.
Continue reading for David Lane's discussion of a potential lawsuit against Boulder and the city's reaction, as well as our previous coverage.