WHITE PLAINS, NY -- The parties to the controversy over a Gadsden flag, often known as a "Don't Tread on Me" flag, went before a federal judge for the first time Friday.
The City of New Rochelle removed the flag from the Naval Militia Armory last spring after it was raised during a flag retirement ceremony by a local veterans group chartered by the City of New Rochelle for more than 50 years to be responsible for all memorial and patriotic displays in the City.
The flag was removed as the result of a complaint by Council Member Jared Rice who described the flag as "offensive".
The controversy has received national attention with coverage by MSNBC, The New York Times, Associated Press, USA Today, Fox News Channel as well as regional coverage by the Journal News, WNBC-TV New York, WCBS Radio 880, News 12 and many other media outlets. Talk of the Sound first broke the story in April.
Rice, an attorney, file criminal harassment complaint after receiving an abusive, racist phone call originating from Tennessee. The Westchester County District Attorney found the phone call did not violate the state harassment statute. With the black community in New Rochelle, Rice sought to blame the New Rochelle Veterans for the phone call from Tennessee and orchestrated a letter from the NAACP to the City of New Rochelle demanding the City "do something" about the call.
The media coverage attracted the attention of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, MI which offered to take the case pro bono.
A complaint was filed in federal court by the United Veterans on July 26, 2013 and amended on October 16, 2013. The City of New Rochelle filed a motion to dismiss on December 10th and the United Veterans replied on December 13th. The case number is 7:13-cv-05241-CS.
Lawyers for the United Veterans Memorial and Patriotic Association and the City of New Rochelle appeared before United States District Judge Cathy Seibel at the Charles L. Brieant Federal Building and United States Courthouse in White Plains, NY.
Judge Seibel described the case as "a very interesting issue".
Before setting a calendar for motion practice on the motion to dismiss, Seibel asked both parties for the whereabouts of the flag.
Attorney Peter Miesels, one of the attorneys from Wilson Eller representing the City of New Rochelle told Judge Seibel that the flag was in the Deputy Commissioners office at New Rochelle City Hall.
Asked to respond, Attorney George Wright, representing the United Veterans, pointed out Peter Parente of the United Veterans in the audience.
"Go get your flag...today", Seibel told Parente. "We can get that out of the way."
Seibel then worked with the attorneys on both sides to set a calendar for motion practice on the motion to dismiss which will take the case into the Spring of 2014.
Seibel offered to allow the United Veterans to amend their complaint having now seen the legal argument the City intends to use. A date for an amendment complaint was set for January 21, 2014.
The City has until February 28th to file a response, the United Veterans have until March 28th to oppose the response and the City of New Rochelle must reply by April 17th.
Judge Seibel told both parties to hold off until depositions until after the motion to dismiss has been decided.
Cathy Seibel was appointed to the federal bench after being nominated by President George W. Bush on March 11, 2008.
Seibel was confirmed by the Senate on July 22, 1998 on a majority vote and received commission on July 30, 1998
Prior to her appointment to the federal bench, Seibel served as Deputy U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2005 to 2008.
Seibel was a law clerk for Federal District Judge Joseph M. McLaughlin for the Eastern District of New York from 1985 to 1987. From 1987 to 1991, Seibel was an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York with the U.S. Attorney's Office. Seibel was assigned to serve as Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington from 1991 to 1993. From 1993 to 1997, Seibel was Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York before serving as Lead Assistant U.S. Attorney there from 1997 to 1999. Seibel was also a Senior Trial Counsel with the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York from 1999 to 2005. Seibel was appointed Deputy U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where she served from 2005 to 2008.
Seibel was born in in 1960 in West Islip, NY, received her A.B. in 1982 from Princeton University and her law degree from Fordham University Law School in 1985.
Biographical Directory of Federal Judges
Born 1960 in West Islip, NY
Federal Judicial Service:
Judge, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
Nominated by George W. Bush on March 11, 2008, to a seat vacated by Richard Conway Casey. Confirmed by the Senate on July 22, 2008, and received commission on July 30, 2008.
Princeton University, A.B., 1982
Fordham University School of Law, J.D., 1985
Law clerk, Hon. Joseph M. McLaughlin, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, 1985-1987
Assistant U.S. attorney, Southern District of New York, 1987-1991, 1993-2008; assistant U.S. attorney-in-charge, 1997-1999; senior trial counsel, 1999-2005; deputy U.S. attorney, 2005-2008
Special assistant U.S. attorney, Western District of Washington, 1991-1993
Adjunct Professor, Columbia Law School
Cathy Seibel at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.