By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
A Santa Fe judge ruled Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit filed against District Attorney Matthew Chandler, saying the suit was filed in an improper venue.
An official with the American Civil Liberties Union, who filed the suit in February on behalf of Clovis’ Dean Young, said they plan to refile the lawsuit in Clovis today or Thursday.
The ACLU wanted the court to clear Young of charges that he distributed sexually explicit material to minors when he placed two nude she-devil stickers on his car.
Chandler was listed as the defendant because he made the determination displaying the stickers was criminal, ACLU officials have said. The ACLU argued Chandler was acting as a state officer when enforcing the state statute under which Young was charged, which is why they filed the suit in Santa Fe.
Judge Carol Vigil of Santa Fe disagreed, however, and on Tuesday dismissed the case without prejudice.
“I think it’s clearly the right decision,” said Assistant Attorney General Jerome Marshak, who is representing Chandler. “(Judge Vigil) made it a point that she disagreed with the argument (of the ACLU) that because the district attorney enforces some state laws, that makes him a state officer.”
On Tuesday, ACLU officials said part of the reason they filed the suit in Santa Fe was to take the spotlight off Young, who was at the center of a media frenzy earlier this year after his case came to light. The stickers depict one devil with its mouth around another’s tail, which may suggest oral sex, a police report said.
The misdemeanor offense Young faces carries a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
ACLU officials said Tuesday their position on the criminal component of this case has not changed. They believe Young’s constitutional right to free speech was violated when charged in December with the offense.
“This is an issue that’s going to be decided by the appellate courts of New Mexico,” said George Bach of the ACLU, assuming both sides would appeal a decision made in Clovis due to the constitutional nature of the case.
Marshak said it is premature to say if he will continue representing Chandler if the case returns to Clovis.