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Will Occupy Dallas Stay at City Hall? Will Its Case Be Heard in Federal Court? Who Knows!

Will Occupy Dallas Stay at City Hall? Will Its Case Be Heard in Federal Court? Who Knows!
Photo by Chris Howell

Right now we were supposed to be at the Earle Cabell for a federal hearing over Occupy Dallas's camp-out behind Dallas City Hall. Alas, that was not meant to be: Friday's agreement, which said the Occupiers could occupy City Hall's bathrooms and kept the city from making good on its threat to fold the tents come 5 p.m. last Saturday, was extended for another 24 hours, meaning campers can sleep soundly on City Hall property for at least tonight.

But there's yet another catch, which could mean this case will drag on longer than a quick hearing tomorrow morning, kick-off scheduled for 9. First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers and Occupy Dallas attorney Jonathan Winocour explain.

"The issue is whether the plaintiffs have a claim under federal law," Bowers tells Unfair Park. Which is why, according to protocol, the first order of business tomorrow morning will be determining whether federal court even has jurisdiction over the case. This, after the city moved the case to federal court Friday afternoon in response to amended petition by Occupy Dallas which alleged First and Fourteenth Amendment rights violations. Got that?

The case's final resting place hinges on whether U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle, who's hearing the case tomorrow morning, decides the issue is the interpretation of the contract between the city and Occupy Dallas (an issue that would be handled by Slaughter in state court) or an allegation that Occupiers' constitutional rights have been violated by the city (in which case, Boyle will rule on the case). Depending on Boyle's decision, Slaughter could end up having déjà vu of Friday afternoon, but with the onus on her to clarify the terms of the contract.

Winocour said it "might not be proper" that the city filed the case in federal court, but that if Boyle sees the constitutional issues as being tied closely enough to the contractual disagreements, she may issue a ruling. Either way, he said, "I think we've got legitimate grounds in either court."

"This is really all about just trying to figure out what the dang agreement means that the city alleged we were in breach of," Winocour added, bottom-lining the rigmarole surrounding what is actually a quite simple issue. At the end of this, one of the judges in one of the courts will determine whether the city's letter citing a breach of contract could be grounds for kicking Occupiers off their campsite, or whether the contractual language is too vague to support such an ouster. Just read this:Filed Motion to Remand


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