Earlier this year, we told you about a lawsuit against the Denver Broncos and its owner, Pat Bowlen, after police twice ejected a Cannabis University vehicle from a Mile High Stadium parking lot, allegedly because the word "cannabis" was printed on it.
The complaint has already been amended once. But now, powerful attorney David Lane has taken on the case, and he predicts that the Broncos are headed for a loss.
As we've reported, the matters in question took place on the mornings of January 12 and January 19, prior to the Broncos' victories over San Diego and New England, respectively, in a pair of NFL playoff games.
After the first of these incidents, Cannabis University's Michelle LaMay told Westword that ticket-holder Freddy Moore of marijuana-centric 1 Blunt Radio, an Internet program, was among those who'd ridden to the game in a Winnebago emblazoned with both the program's logo and the Cannabis University name. The plan was to broadcast during the run-up to the game -- but something went wrong.
LaMay wasn't present on the 12th, but she was listening in until the feed went down. In response to a text from her asking if there was a problem, Moore sent a reply that included "a photo of a Denver policeman on a motorcycle," she recalls. "And there was obviously somebody else there -- a representative who said their presence was 'insulting.'"
Why? The apparent reason was the presence of the word "cannabis" on the side of the vehicle.
In the initial complaint, LaMay, representing herself and Cannabis University, argued that the other CU "was defamed and damaged in a public place by the Defendants: The Defendants' restraint of the plaintiff's speech violated the First Amendment rights of a corporation; and the Defendants' complaint and enforcement was subjective and inequitable."
An amended complaint filed in March added another claim, arguing that the defendants' actions violated Colorado statutes against disparaging homegrown food materials. Here's the statute in question:
It is unlawful for any person, firm, partnership, association, or corporation or any servant, agent, employee, or officer thereof to destroy or cause to be destroyed, or to permit to decay or to become unfit for use or consumption, or to take, send, or cause to be transported out of this state so to be destroyed or permitted to decay, or knowingly to make any materially false statement, for the purpose of maintaining prices or establishing higher prices for the same, or for the purpose of limiting or diminishing the quantity thereof available for market, or for the purpose of procuring, or aiding in procuring, or establishing, or maintaining a monopoly in such articles or products, or for the purpose of in any manner restraining trade, any fruits, vegetables, grain, meats, or other articles or products ordinarily grown, raised, produced, or used in any manner or to any extent as food for human beings or for domestic animal.
The subject of whether these tactics would have worked is now moot. Attorney Lane, featured earlier today in a post about a controversy over a restorative-justice letter in the James Holmes case, has taken on LaMay's cause and has simplified the arguments to focus on an alleged infringement of free-speech rights.
The Lane-approved amended complaint is below in its entirety, but here's the scene-setting introduction"
This is an action for damages against Defendants for violating Plaintiffs' rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and Article II, Section 10 of the Colorado Constitution, to engage in core political speech in a traditional public forum without being subjected to censorship and retaliation based on the content and viewpoint expressed in Plaintiffs' speech.
According to Lane, he and his firm "got involved in the case a couple of months ago. Michelle came into our office and showed me the complaint they did their very best to put together. And frankly, it was a mess -- but there are serious First Amendment issues involved in the case. So we cleaned it up, filed an amended complaint and are now litigating against the Denver Broncos and the Denver police.
"The issues are clear," he continues. "The taxpayers paid for the parking lot where the Winnebago with 'Cannabis University' on it was parked. Now, the Broncos may not like free speech, and certain jock-sniffing police officers working off-duty for the Broncos may do whatever the Broncos tell them to do, but the Colorado Supreme Court has held that this is a public forum and free speech is permitted."
The latter comment refers to Lewis v. Colorado Rockies Baseball Club, a 1997 ruling in which the justices determined that the sidewalks outside Coors Field are a public forum.
In light of the previous decision, Lane is confident of the complaint's success. "It's pretty clear: We will prevail," he says.
"Look around that parking lot and there are a million vehicles with ads all over them, for electric companies, plumbing companies, whatever. But the Broncos singled out Cannabis University as a message they just don't like -- although some of their players like it a lot. The official position of the Denver Broncos is, 'We're not going to allow messages that we don't like, and we'll only allow messages we do like.' But on public property funded by taxpayers, they're just going to have to put up with some messages they might not like."
Lane expects the Broncos to file a motion in response to the suit before long. In the meantime, here's the amended complaint:
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