Mirabella v. Villard

The Mirabellas alleged that their neighbors extended their backyard into wetlands owned by Montgomery Township, Pennsylvania by fencing the open space, placing playground equipment, and landscaping. They complained to the Township, which removed the fence, required the neighbors to move their playground equipment and required the neighbors to stop landscaping the open space. The Mirabellas alleged the neighbors continued to “cut and clear.” They continued to complain. The Township gave the neighbors permission to mow the open space. The Mirabellas, both attorneys, notified the Township Board that they intended to sue their neighbors and stated that, as the owner of the open space, “the Township will be an indispensable party.” Officials interpreted this as a threat that the Mirabellas would sue the Township and responded that the Township would seek sanctions. The Board’s chair, Walsh, emailed the Mirabellas to “direct all further communications to the Township attorney. Please never contact me, the Board of Supervisors or the Township employees directly.” The Mirabellas attended a Board meeting and protested the destruction of the open space and the emails. The Mirabellas filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging First Amendment violations. The district court rejected claims of qualified immunity. The Third Circuit reversed. While the Mirabellas adequately alleged a retaliation claim and a violation of their right to petition, those rights were not clearly established for purposes of qualified immunity. View "Mirabella v. Villard" on Justia Law