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International Society for Krishna Consciousness of California Inc. v. City of Los Angeles

United States District Court, C.D. California

March 6, 2015

INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS OF CALIFORNIA INC., a California nonprofit religious corporation; INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS OF ARIZONA, an Arizona nonprofit religious corporation doing business as BLUE STAR, Plaintiffs,
CITY OF LOS ANGELES, a California Municipal Corporation; CITY OF LOS ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF RECREATION AND PARKS, a division of the City of Los Angeles, Defendants.


DEAN D. PREGERSON, District Judge.

Plaintiffs International Society for Krishna Consciousness of California and International Society for Krishna Consciousness of Arizona (collectively, "ISKCON") wish to be able to proselytize, including selling T-shirts bearing their message, in the vicinity of Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park. Although Defendants are currently allowed to do so, park rangers have restricted their activity to a "designated area" at the northeast[1] end of the Observatory property. (Mem. P. & A. at 5:6-13.)

Plaintiffs therefore seek a temporary restraining order ("TRO") preventing city officials from

warning, citing, arresting, prosecuting, harassing, or otherwise enforcing an unwritten rule or policy the prohibits the sale of religious literature, and the solicitation of donations in conjunction with the distribution of religious literature, as well as the sale of message-bearing T-shirts and other merchandise, on the public walkways and plaza areas of the Griffith Observatory.

(Proposed Order, attached to Application.) Plaintiffs also seek an order to show cause why a preliminary injunction (presumably along the same lines) should not be granted. (Proposed Order to Show Cause, attached to Application.) The Court, having considered Plaintiffs' submission, denies the Application for a TRO but grants the request for an order to show cause.

A preliminary injunction is ordinarily granted on a noticed motion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(a)(1). Only extraordinary circumstances justify issuance of an injunction ex parte, without giving the opposing party an opportunity to respond:

The court may issue a temporary restraining order without written or oral notice to the adverse party or its attorney only if (A) specific facts in an affidavit or a verified complaint clearly show that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the movant before the adverse party can be heard in opposition; and (B) the movant's attorney certifies in writing any efforts made to give notice and the reasons why it should not be required.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(b)(1).

Plaintiffs have served Defendants with a copy of the Application, which may have provided city officials with at least constructive notice of its existence. But the Application provides no meaningful opportunity for the City to be "heard in opposition, " which is the point of ordinarily requiring a properly noticed motion to obtain an injunction. As the Supreme Court has noted, "our entire jurisprudence runs counter to the notion of court action taken before reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard has been granted both sides of a dispute." Granny Goose Foods, Inc. v. Bhd. of Teamsters & Auto Truck Drivers Local No. 70 of Alameda Cnty., 415 U.S. 423, 439 (1974). The use of ex parte TRO's "should be restricted to serving their underlying purpose of preserving the status quo and preventing irreparable harm just so long as is necessary to hold a hearing, and no longer." Id. Thus, the Ninth Circuit has limited the issuance of ex parte TRO's to a "very few circumstances." Reno Air Racing Ass'n., Inc. v. McCord, 452 F.3d 1126, 1131 (9th Cir. 2006). An injunction may be issued ex parte, for example, when the adverse party is unknown or cannot be located. Id. Or it may be issued where "notice to the defendant would render fruitless the further prosecution of the action." Id. Neither of those limited circumstances is present here.

The Court notes that Plaintiffs' attorney has not separately certified in writing a specific set of reasons why notice (and the concomitant opportunity to be heard) should not be required.[2] Plaintiffs do argue, delving into the elements required from preliminary injunctive relief generally, [3] that they will suffer irreparable injury. Plaintiffs cite to Elrod v. Burns[4] and Am.-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm. v. Reno[5] for the proposition that "[t]he loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury." But neither Am.-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm. nor Elrod dealt with a application for an ex parte TRO. Moreover, the plaintiffs in both the cited cases were essentially prohibited from exercising their First Amendment rights of association at all .[6] Thus, discerning the constitutional injury was relatively straightforward.

In this case, by contrast, Plaintiffs are free to go right now to Griffith Observatory to proselytize and sell T-shirts.[7] The sole question at issue is whether they may be confined to a particular space set aside for such activities. (Mem. P. & A. at 17-22.) Based on the aerial photos and descriptions provided, the City appears to provide a space for Plaintiffs' activities that is alongside one major path of access to the Observatory the Court - not the location Plaintiffs would prefer, but not one which obviously deprives Plaintiffs of an audience.[8] (See, e.g., Decl. David Liberman, Ex. N (showing that the designated area is in view of the main plaza and located at the mouth of a large road on which many park patrons' cars are parked); Id., Exs. HH, JJ (showing park patrons in the area).) The Court therefore cannot yet say that Plaintiffs' facts "clearly show" that their First Amendment interests would be immediately and irreparably harmed absent a TRO. Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(b)(1).[9]

The Court therefore DENIES the Application for a TRO. In the interest of economy, the Court will not require Plaintiffs to submit a separate noticed motion, but GRANTS Plaintiffs' request for an Order to Show Cause. "If the TRO is denied, the Court may set the hearing on the order to show cause without regard to the twenty-eight (28) days notice of motion ...

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