Six-month extension to wrap up mediation with artists

With the passing of the first deadline for mediation between the four artists who are challenging city ordinances that restrict their use of public spaces, the City of St Augustine reported to Historic City News that the court has approved a six-month extension to wrap up mediation before proceeding to jury trial.

As no settlement was reached in the time allowed, the artists forged ahead with the case. United States District Judge Brian J. Davis ordered the jury trial set for the term commencing on January 2, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. in Courtroom 12-C of the U.S. Courthouse located at 300 North Hogan Street in Jacksonville.

The city says the extension allows the mediation to continue until July of this year. If the parties cannot reach a mediated settlement by that deadline, the case will proceed to trial during January 2018 as previously published by Historic City News.

Per the complaint, the court struck down a version of a city ordinance that had content-based restrictions for artists in 2000. Then, in 2009, a federal judge granted the artists a preliminary injunction against rules that kept visual artists from displaying and selling work in the Plaza.

This is the second time local artists Bruce Bates, Elena Hecht, and Kate Merrick have gone to federal court, as plaintiffs, to obtain an order allowing them to use public places to create, display and sell expressive art like painting, photography, and sculpture. This time they are joined by Helena Sala.

The city says the extension was requested because any mediated settlement will involve legislative action, and thus requires more time than typically might be needed to accomplish a settlement.

City Attorney Isabelle Lopez is not defending the city in this lawsuit, the city is represented by two defense lawyers from the MARKS GRAY law firm in Jacksonville, hired by the insurance trust of the Florida League of Cities.

The city advised local reporters that both sides recognized that expending resources to meet the initial deadlines would distract from the productive mediation efforts.

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