RACINE -- A federal judge may have dismissed the discrimination lawsuit brought against the city by six former bar owners, but the legal battle isn't over yet.
Speaking from his Milwaukee office on Thursday, Martin E. Kohler of Kohler & Hart — one of the two attorneys representing the plaintiffs — said he planned to refile the complaint.
Filed Feb. 25 in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the initial lawsuit alleged that the city, Mayor John Dickert and 17 other defendants engaged in an elaborate plot to bankroll Dickert’s campaign while conspiring to drive minority tavern owners out of the city and give their liquor licenses to white bar owners.
In addition to allegedly violating the federal Civil Rights Act, the suit claimed the defendants violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly called RICO, through their alleged involvement in the scheme.
U.S. District Judge J. P. Stadtmueller issued an order dismissing that initial complaint Wednesday, calling it overly broad, but leaving room for the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint.
While the complaint was confusing, it didn’t mean that all the plaintiffs’ claims — such as the allegations that minority bar owners were held to different standards than white bar owners —were without merit, Stadtmueller wrote. He added that “their general allegations suggest a case with serious potential that should proceed to discovery.”
“He just wants us to clean things up,” Kohler said of the judge's decision. “He could have done it any number of ways and this is the way he chose. It’s not unexpected in these kinds of cases."
Kohler has about 20 days to file the amended complaint.
The city has so far spent nearly $88,000 in attorney’s fees fighting the lawsuit.