Leake and Dean v. Drinkard

Court: U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia
Case Number: 1:19-cv-3463-WMR
Decision Date: June 26, 2020
Case Type: First Amendment - Speech

For the past seventy years, the City of Alpharetta had honored war veterans each August with its annual Old Soldiers Day Parade (the “Parade”). The Parade began after the Civil War and originally honored Confederate soldiers. Upon the resurgence of the Parade in 1952 after World War II, the honorees of the Parade were extended beyond Civil War veterans to include veterans of other wars. The Plaintiffs wanted to display a confederate flag during the parade. The City declined to allow this and explained that the Confederate flag had become a “divisive symbol that a large portion of [its] citizens see as symbolizing oppression and slavery” and that it was concerned the use of the flag would detract from “the goals of the Old Soldiers Day Parade and the service of our American war veterans.”

Defendants argued they are entitled to summary judgment because the City was engaging in government speech and within its right to prohibit the use of the Confederate flag at the 2019 Parade. The court found for the City in concluding that the City was engaging in government speech through the Parade. “The City’s presence in the application process, advertising, and in the parade itself leads an observer to identify the speaker as the City. The City’s financial and administrative control over the Parade establishes that the City had direct control over the message disseminated to the public. The voice of the Parade was that of the government, and the City was within its right to restrict the [Plaintiffs’] use of the Confederate flag so as to portray what the City thought to be appropriate for their message.”