By Katina Caraganis
SHIRLEY -- The American Civil Liberties Union has asked a judge to rule in favor of its lawsuit arguing that a Finance Committee member's free-speech rights are being denied by an order barring him from town buildings without a police escort.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the town of Shirley, as well as Selectmen David Swain, Kendra Dumont and Andy Deveau separately, after they voted to issue a no-trespass order against Finance Committee member Robert Schuler after Schuler, frustrated with the budget process, commented in May 2011 that he wanted to take out his gun and "start shooting."
Laura Rotolo, staff counsel with the ACLU of Massachusetts working on Schuler's case, said in an e-mail that the ACLU has been unable to settle the case with the town.
"They answered our complaint largely denying culpability and yesterday (Wednesday) we moved for summary judgment," she said. "We believe there are no issues of fact that need to be tried by a jury."
Rotolo is asking a judge to declare the notice violates Schuler's First Amendment rights, issuing a permanent injunction expunging the notice and its enforcement, and awarding further relief as the court deems reasonable.
The Board of Selectmen banned Schuler from all town owned buildings May 9, 2011, after he expressed his frustration with the pace of the budget process in town by saying at a meeting he wanted to "pull out my gun and start shooting or something."
The suit asserts that Schuler's rhetoric neither explains nor justifies banning him from public property.
The suit also alleges that the ban is in retaliation for his public criticisms of the Shirley selectmen.
Schuler has apologized, but selectmen have refused to lift the order, saying he either needs to take anger-management classes to have the order lifted or step down from both positions.
The ACLU argues that the town cannot order a volunteer to undergo anger-management classes.
Current Selectman Robert Prescott declined to comment on the lawsuit or the motion because he was not a part of the board that made the decision to issue the no-trespass order.
Swain and Dumont did not return multiple calls seeking comment last week. Deveau has since resigned from the board and has made plans to move to Florida.
Follow Katina Caraganis on Twitter @kcaraganis.