Judge rules for councilman in ‘architect’ case
A state board violated City Councilman Jack Johnson’s constitutional rights when it censured him for calling himself an architect, a district court judge ruled.The Colorado Board of Examiners of Architects issued an order last summer in which it directed Johnson to cease calling himself an architect or face possible criminal sanctions. Johnson responded with a lawsuit.Although the Board of Examiners rescinded its order in February, District Court Judge H. Jeffrey Bayless concluded the board’s action violated Johnson’s First Amendment right to free speech. The judge issued the ruling Tuesday.
“In my opinion, it’s a complete vindication,” Johnson said.The case arose from a complaint local resident Bert Myrin filed a year ago, after Johnson referred to himself as an architect during a Squirm Night candidates forum. Johnson, then a City Council candidate, explained he had a degree in architecture but was not licensed as an architect in Colorado.Myrin accused Johnson of misrepresenting himself, and the board concurred, issuing the sanction against Johnson. It later withdrew the order, conceding the statute under which it censored Johnson does not apply in the context of political debate.Johnson did not describe himself as an architect to solicit business but to educate the voting public as to his educational background, the judge concluded.
“The board’s blanket cease and desist order was far more restrictive than it needed to be in order to protect the interests which were the board’s charge,” Bayless said in his ruling.”Jack can refer to himself as an architect in a noncommercial context because that’s what he is,” said Johnson’s attorney, Christopher Beall.Myrin said Tuesday that he had not reviewed the judgment and has not been following the case; he declined to comment on the outcome.The case had been scheduled for trial in Denver earlier this month, but Bayless concluded the facts were undisputed and that there was no need for a trial. He issued a summary judgment.
According to the judge, Johnson is entitled to reimbursement of the costs of his lawsuit against the board. Beall, with the Denver law firm of Faegre & Benson, handled the case on a pro bono basis. Roughly $50,000 in reimbursed costs will go mostly to the law firm, Johnson said.”It’s just a shame that it has taken a year and a great deal of money to prove what I said that night … that I am an architect,” he said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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