Judge orders end to Confederate flag suit

By Erik Rodriguez

American-Statesman Staff

Thursday, February 14, 2002

U.S. District Court judge Sam Sparks has dismantled a Confederate flag lawsuit against a Hays County school district, ordering the plaintiffs to drop their claims or face retribution from the court.

Sparks said the suit was directed at the wrong people and had no legal support. Instead of dismissing the case, the order demanded the plaintiffs withdraw it within three weeks.

North Carolina lawyer Kirk Lyons filed the suit in November on behalf of five people -- Harold Kenneth "H.K." Edgerton, John Eric and Phyllis Elaine Patterson, Hence W. "H.W." Irby Jr. and Lynn Dell Foster -- who said their civil rights were violated when they were told to leave their Confederate flags outside a high school football stadium. Named as defendants were Hays High School Principal Carl Hall, Hays Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and Robert Presley, an assistant superintendent.

In January, the defendants asked Sparks to dismiss the case on the grounds that the district's flag policy was a University Interscholastic League rule and that the league would be a more appropriate defendant.

But the court said district officials were right. Sparks also zeroed in on apparent misprints in Lyons' motion and the fact that he withdrew his original request for an injunction.

"It would appear the plaintiffs have filed a complaint requesting a temporary injunction when they did not want one, obtained publicity because of the allegations, sued the wrong parties and in all probability have no constitutional cause of action against any party," Sparks wrote in his order.

Sparks' order is unique only in its courtesy to the plaintiffs, legal experts said.

"He's actually being nicer than he has to be," said Charles Silver, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. "He didn't have to give them 21 days, he could have sanctioned them right then and there."

Lyons said: "I'm shocked. I don't know what's in the court's mind."

Hays school district officials said they would not comment on the order.

erodriguez@statesman.com; 445-3673.

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