Can you Agree to Waive your First Amendment Rights?

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Facts

Marshall Spiegel, the Unit Owner, had been in constant litigation with his Association for over 20 years regarding various matters surrounding the operation and maintenance of the common areas.  One of these lawsuits sought to establish set dates in which the community pool was to remain open, among other things. Spiegel and Association agreed to resolve the dispute by entering into a settlement agreement which established set dates that the pool was to remain open and it was further agreed that “[Spiegel is] not to post any documents relating to the 1618 Sheridan Road building on the windows of his unit, [or]… immediately adjacent to any windows of his unit … with the intent that such documents be readable to passersby.”

After the settlement had been reached in 2000, Spiegel continued to post 1618 Sheridan Road-related signs on a mannequin located in close proximity to the window of his ground-level unit, including two in 2014, two in 2018, and then at least twice a month beginning in April 2020 and lasting until June 2020. In June of 2020, Spiegel filed a petition to enforce the settlement agreement because the community pool was not open during the agreed upon dates (due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic). The Association counter petitioned to enforce the portion of the settlement agreement precluding Spiegel from posting signs relating to 1618 Sheridan Road.

Trial Court Decision

The trial court granted Spiegel’s petition, requiring the pool to be opened within 14 days and later granted the Association’s counter petition, requiring Spiegel to remove the signs he had posted. Spiegel appeals the trial court’s ruling based on his belief that the signs are protected as free speech under the First Amendment as well as the Illinois Condominium Property Act, which forbids condominium rules or regulations that impair constitutionally protected speech.

Appellate Court Decision

The Appellate Court agreed with the trial court and stated that Spiegel had effectively waived his First Amendment rights by entering into the settlement agreement. The agreement contained specific language stating that both Spiegel and his counsel had reviewed and approved all provisions of the agreement, thus making Spiegel’s waiver of his First Amendment rights knowingly, voluntarily, and intentionally.

LESSONS LEARNED:
  1. Certain behavior may be limited by agreement, including First Amendment rights.
  2. Always know what you are signing.

Spiegel v. 1618 Sheridan Road Condominium Association, Inc., No. 1-20-1142 (Ill. App. Ct. Mar. 16, 2022)

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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