by Michael R. Allen
On July 27, Circuit Court Judge Robert Dierker, Jr. dismissed the Friends of the San Luis‘ petition for injunctive relief. The petition sought to stop demolition of the San Luis Apartments so that the Friends could file an appeal of the Preservation Board’s approval of the demolition. Dierker not only dismissed the case, but did so on the basis that the Friends had no legal standing to bring forth a preservation appeal under the city’s preservation laws.
So, the building is gone and the case dismissed. Why are the Friends of the San Luis still fighting?
If left unchallenged, Judge Dierker’s ruling could set case precedent that citizens and advocacy groups lack the right to appeal decisions of the Preservation Board. Since the Preservation Board and its enabling laws govern the entire city, all citizens are affected by the decisions of the Board and deserve the right to appeal on procedural grounds.
Why would the Friends of the San Luis care about the right to appeal? Didn’t you want to save one building?
True, our organization was formed to advocate for a specific building. Yet our ability to do so was undercut by Dierker’s decision. The members of the Friends of the San Luis are active in other preservation matters in which the right to appeal is essential. If people have to go to court to prove our right to participate on every matter, concerned citizens won’t be able to actually fight for our city’s historic buildings. We must legally clarify that right to protect citizen preservation advocacy.
Okay. What’s next?
We will file an appeal of Dierker’s ruling to the Missouri Court of Appeals on the basis of his narrow definition of who has appeal rights. That appeal must be filed within 30 days of the ruling. Then, the Missouri Court of Appeals will schedule its hearing.
What if you lose at the Missouri Court of Appeals?
We could appeal further to the Missouri Supreme Court. However, if the St. Louis preservation ordinance’s right to appeal is not clear enough to withstand appellant judicial review, then there is a bigger problem than one judge’s point of view. Then we will know that the ordinance itself needs more clear language protecting citizen right to appeal.