A Galveston attorney is headed to federal court claiming prominent residents of the island city got preferential treatment in being allowed back to their homes.
The attorney, Anthony Griffin, temporarily dismissed the civil rights federal lawsuit he filed last Friday against island officials, but he tells Hair Balls he will re-file it as soon as he can.
Griffin says that after city officials announced that the area was closed to everyone except essential emergency personnel, he and other residents were prohibited from returning to their homes. However, Griffin claims that a select group of business owners and privately-hired contractors were allowed to enter the city, and that police personally escorted “prominent Galvestonians” onto the island.
Griffin also claims in the lawsuit that a police officer told him he needed to get on a “special list” maintained by the city to get onto the island, despite not being “essential emergency personnel.”
“They let thousands of contractors down to take care of the properties of influential institutions,” Griffin says, “protecting their property during the day after the storm. If you were not connected or if you just were not liked, you were not coming in. And I think that’s selective enforcement of the rule and I think it’s unconstitutional.”
Griffin says residents who did not evacuate have shown him pictures they took the day after Ike of contractors tending to the homes of County Judge James Yarborough and City Manager Steve LeBlanc.
“They were making these press conferences saying no one can come in,” says Griffin. “Well, they were protecting their property and we have pictures and people are livid.”
In addition, Griffin states in the lawsuit that people such as lawyer Irwin Herz, gift-shop owner Allen Flores and a pair of ministers were allowed to access Galveston. He also claims that police officers were escorting their personal friends onto the island.
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Upon seeing all of this, Griffin says he went “from rage to depression to just tears for about three or four days” before putting back on his lawyer’s cap and deciding to file the lawsuit. He spent a day a the University of Houston law school preparing the complaint.
However, after speaking with the Galveston County Attorney over the weekend and hearing that residents would be allowed back home Sunday, Griffin decided to dismiss the complaint until he can add additional plaintiffs and gets his law practice back up and running.
“I don’t think the citizens of Galveston will let me dismiss it totally,” Griffin says. “Just yesterday we had 50 to 100 people asking to join. I agreed to dismiss it without prejudice on Monday. Right now, I don’t have computers, Internet, telephones; I have nothing right now to be able to practice law. I probably couldn’t find a suit to wear to federal court right now if I wanted to. But it will be pursued.”
-- Craig Vogel