Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Saturday, July 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Boston Blocked From Curbing Parade Route

BOSTON (CN) - South Boston's annual St. Patrick's Day/Evacuation Day parade will run the full 3.2-mile route after a federal judge ruled against the city's attempt to shorten the parade.

U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns on Tuesday barred the City of Boston from shortening the parade route just one day after the parade's organizing committee filed a federal lawsuit against the city, claiming First and Fourteenth Amendment violations after the city issued a permit shortening the parade from the 3.2-mile route that had persisted for 20 years.

"I went in with a secret weapon - the First Amendment," said Chester Darling, the attorney who represented the parade organizers. "I couldn't lose that motion on a losing machine. It was so fundamentally wrong what the mayor did and the judge immediately saw that."

Darling famously represented the Allied War Veterans Council, who has organized the parade for decades, in its 1995 U.S. Supreme Court case against the City of Boston, when the city attempted to force the council to lift its ban of LGBT advocacy groups in the parade.

For 20 years, the parade route remained unchanged until last year when record snowfall forced the parade to be shortened. This year, the city claimed that increased concern over public intoxication and safety justified the shorter route.

"There have been numerous instances of violence and underage consumption of alcohol among spectators in the Dorchester Heights area," wrote Peter Geraghty, in a motion on behalf of the city. "The [police] department has been forced to deploy multiple units, including public order platoons and mobile field forces, to address these issues."

But Stearns was unconvinced that public safety was a new concern warranting a shorter parade.

"It appears to me that the city has a persuasive case, although the real case being made perhaps says more about banning the sale and consumption of alcohol than it really does with the length and duration of the parade itself, but that is neither here nor there," Stearns said in a 5-page hearing excerpt dated March 15.

The judge also dismissed the city's concern that the parade would create an undue tax burden on residents.

"In terms of the public interest at stake, I think the public is more heavily invested in the protection of constitutional rights than it might be in whatever savings, which here what I have heard, and this is anecdotal, is a potential saving in overtime of some $80 or $90,000," Stearns said. "Not that that's inconsequential, but it is very hard to develop a market for First Amendment rights, and it seems to me on balance that it is a price worth paying to see that a fundamental constitutional right is honored."

The City of Boston's mayor's press office did not respond to multiple calls requesting comment.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.