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Activist’s McCain Rally Lawsuit Is on the Ropes

PHOENIX, Ariz. (CN) - A Mohave County man who claims local officials barred activists from passing out flyers about Sen. John McCain's voting record during a health care forum will have to revise his complaint if he wants to move forward with a civil rights action, a federal judge ruled.

While McCain staffers were allowed to solicit petition signatures for the senator's reelection at a November 2009 meeting in the Mohave County Administration Building, county officials ordered activists to stop passing out flyers.

Several months later, the Mohave County Board of Supervisors approved a policy stating that the administration building is not a public forum. The new ordinance bans political campaigning and assemblies in and around the building.

Jim Kanelos, of Gold Valley, near Kingman, filed a complaint pro se last summer against the county and various county officials, seeking punitive damages. He claims that the county stomped on his First Amendment rights by preventing him from accessing information about McCain's record during the meeting, and that the subsequent policy change was illegal because it was passed without a public comment period. Kanelos also says that the officials had mounted a civil conspiracy to deny his rights.

U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow granted the defendants' motion for partial judgment on Kanelos' pleadings in an order singed Feb. 9. The ruling gives Kanelos 21 days to amend his complaint, and Snow promised to dismiss the case if Kanelos does not file an amended complaint by March 2.

Judge Snow found the original complaint somewhat confused and lacking in specific facts - problems that he appeared to chalk up to the plaintiff's initial lack of counsel.

Specifically, there is some question as to whether Kanelos' right to free speech or his right to free assembly was violated by the county. Also, Kanelos alleged that the defendants had enacted a conspiracy, but failed to "plead any facts to support his legal conclusion that the individual defendants were coconspirators," Snow wrote.

"Plaintiff is obligated to clarify his precise causes of action and his standing to allege likely prospective deprivation of his constitutional rights," Snow wrote. "However, given the possibility that plaintiff can assert specific facts to support at least some of his claims and to establish his standing with the assistance of counsel, which he now possesses, the motion for partial judgment on the pleadings is granted with leave for plaintiff to file an amended complaint consistent with this order."

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