Today federal Judge Stephen G. Larson set a trial date of March 16, 2010, in CIR’s case on behalf of California grandmother Julie Waltz, whom state housing officials made the subject of an investigation solely because she expressed her objections to the placement in her neighborhood of a group home for emotionally troubled persons.
The facility was put right next door to Waltz, and she worried (not without reason) that not just the emotionally disabled, but eventually sex offenders, too, would move in. She assumed she had a basic First Amendment right to join in protests of the placement, and she did so by means of signs in her own yard. In response, state officials investigated Waltz for “housing discrimination” against the disabled, and even accused her of it in the media. Unsurprisingly, after this the protests that had been ballooning against government decisions to place group homes in residential neighborhoods died off. Mission accomplished for the state housing officials? At CIR we hope not. We’ve sued the officials on Waltz’s behalf under the First Amendment. In fact, we’re suing them for damages in their personal capacities, which is the best way to hold them accountable for using intimidating investigations of citizens to squelch debate about favored government policies.