BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The holidays may be over, but a Louisiana woman wants to keep a light display on her roof extending a middle finger to her neighbors.
U.S. District Judge James Brady heard testimony Monday about whether Sarah Childs should be granted a preliminary injunction, barring the city of Denham Springs and police from requiring her to remove the display. The judge didn't rule and the hearing will continue next week.
Childs said she put up the roof message in November because she believed a neighbor stole her dog. She said police threatened her with fines and arrest because of the lights. She and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana sued the city, its mayor and police.
Lawyers for Denham Springs and police say officials didn't threaten Childs and the case has no merit. But they also argue the display isn't protected speech under the U.S. Constitution because the extended finger is designed to attack her neighbor.
The judge issued a temporary restraining order in mid-December, prohibiting city officials from interfering with the lights and saying efforts to take down the display would violate her rights to free speech and due process.
With the Christmas holidays wrapped up and many people packing up their holiday lights, the federal judge asked Monday if the lawsuit still was needed.
"Is this matter now moot? Are the lights still up?" he asked.
"The lights are still up," said Justin Harrison, an ACLU lawyer representing Childs.
"And she intends to keep them up?" Brady asked.
"I think she intends to keep them up, your honor," Harrison replied.
According to the lawsuit, Childs removed the lights twice: once after a police officer told her she could be fined and again after another officer threatened to arrest her. But she has reinstalled them, after getting representation from the ACLU and the judge's temporary order in her favor.
In Monday's testimony, Denham Springs police officer Jared Kreamer described two visits to Childs' home in response to complaints from Childs that her neighbors were harassing her.
Under initial questioning from Childs' lawyer, Kreamer said he didn't recall if he told her to take down the light display or told her she could go to jail because of it. He said he found the lights offensive and thought it could be considered disturbing the peace.
"I remember telling her if she didn't take it down, it could lead to trouble," the police officer said.
Then, Childs' lawyers played a partial recording that Childs had made with her cell phone during one conversation with Kreamer in which he told her she could end up in jail because of the lights. Kreamer said he wasn't threatening her, but was just advising her that she could run into a complaint by her neighbors accusing her of disturbing the peace.
MAY 23 Here's a story in the Picayune about some statistics that must come as a blow to folks who believe that any private school can do a better job of educating kids than any public school: Danielle Dreilinger reports that only 30 percent of the voucher kids are passing. That's less than half of the state wide average, she says. It's an interesting statistic because most of the schools (if not all) taking voucher kids have never had their students' standardized test scores released to the public before.
MAY 23 Stephen Sabludowsky blogs on Bayou Buzz about auditor requests here. Recently the state GOP started crowing about a request from the Legislative Auditor, claiming they were being targeted because of their anti-tax stance. (Uh, your what?) Denial and hyperbole aside, the state Democratic party blew holes in that theory with an email announcing they'd received the same request, Sabludowsky writes here.
MAY 23 Jim Brown blogs about the senate race in this post. He says that, given Bobby Jindal's "lack of traction" on the national stage, it might make more sense for the governor to consider running against Mary Landrieu for the senate seat. Since Tim Teeple left the Cassidy team, it makes sense he might land on a Jindal for Senate team, Brown opines.
MAY 23 In this Louisiana Voice post, blogger Tom Aswell writes of rumors that his nemesis, state Superintendent of Education John White, may be soon departing Louisiana for a federal post. It's hard to believe, given his performance, Aswell says, but stranger things have happened. An anti-White BESE member says that, if true, White is quitting before he can be fired.
MAY 23 In this post on American Zombie, blogger Jason Berry writes about the Mother's Day shooting. Mayor Landrieu said that "this is not who we are," but the fact is, this is New Orleans, Berry writes. The violence infused in the city is the result of a culture created by "sins of omission or sins of commission," Berry writes. It's not a problem that can be solved by legislating, policing, praying or publicizing, he says: Someone's got to understand what's happening first.
MAY 23 This post in the Westside Journal tells us what Port Allen Mayor Deedy has been up to lately: vetoing ordinances, apparently. This story is most interesting, however, when it delves into a petition that has been circulating around the city lately. It accuses the former mayor of a lot of nasty things; the former mayor says it is full of lies and "broken syntax" which may be a larger offense in his eyes.
MAY 23 This editorial posted in The Advocate is a bit confusing. The writing is poor - definitely not up to the usual editorial writing standard there - and the point is hard to grasp. Apparently, the writer is saying that privatization of state efforts is OK, as long as there is oversight and transparency, but Jindal's not good at that, and the legislature shouldn't over-react. Okey Dokey. Can't they get one of them Pulitzer-winning people to write an editorial?
MAY 23 This post on The Lens gives you links to a new Google Earth tool that allows you to see any spot on earth transform over the past 30 years. Bob Marshall, who covers the coast for the paper, says that in the case of Louisiana's coastline, it's possibly something you don't want to see, because it's not a pretty picture. There are several clips here, showing critical areas erode away. For Marshall, it was vindication for all those times he was met with eye-rolling when he talked about erosion.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.