Seth Brigham, whose outbursts punctuate many a Boulder City Council meeting, may soon be addressing city council members as “defendants — and Lisa Morzel.”
City spokesman Patrick von Keyserling says the city attorney’s office “does not plan to settle” with Brigham before his deadline of noon on Friday, Sept. 7. If that deadline passes, Brigham’s attorney David Lane says he will proceed with a federal lawsuit against the city council and several members individually for violating Brigham’s First Amendment rights.
“The city is not interested in a settlement,” says von Keyserling, Boulder’s communication director. “They have not been served by Mr. Brigham’s attorney for a lawsuit, and the city’s position is that any lawsuit would be a frivolous lawsuit.”
Brigham and Lane are threatening a lawsuit after the city enforced a temporary restraining order against the political gadfly, keeping him from city council members and municipal buildings. District Judge David Archuleta removed the restraining order and shot down the request for a permanent one Aug. 28.
To Lane and Brigham, that’s evidence of a violation of Brigham’s right to free speech.
Brigham says he and Lane have a settlement figure in mind, though Lane says they don’t. In the past Lane has said that Boulder’s previous settlement with Brigham, $10,000, won’t be enough this time.
Brigham does say he would lower his asking price if the city took other steps, including removing city officials.
“I would settle for much less than I thought we should get if [Boulder City Attorney] Tom Carr was removed,” he says.
In a letter to Carr, Lane specifically said city council member Lisa Morzel wouldn’t be named as a defendant, though other council members would be, after she submitted an affidavit that supported Brigham and opposed the restraining order.
If Brigham wins in court — or if the city switches positions and reaches a settlement — Lane says the taxpayers are on the hook.
“I’m sure the city would end up paying — taxpayers would foot the bill for the city council’s wrongdoing,” he says.
Lane acknowledges a Bureau of Justice Statistics statement that a large majority of federal civil rights lawsuits end in a loss for the plaintiff, but says he’s careful not to pursue litigation unless he’ll win.
“After a trial, maybe they have a 70 percent chance of winning, statistically,” he says. “That’s why I have to be very careful about the cases I take to trial. We don’t take cases to trial if we think we’re going lose.”
Von Keyserling, meanwhile, says that once the lawsuit is filed, the city will decide its next move.
“At the time the lawsuit would be filed would be when the city would determine its next steps in the process,” he says.
But settling still isn’t likely, von Keyserling says.
“The city does not plan to settle, and if a lawsuit would be forthcoming, we believe it would be frivolous and would be seen for that at face value,” he says.