Lakeland Villate Comm. Association v. Michael Merola; Cause No. 2010-80552; Harris County, Texas, 281st Judicial District Court

Lawrence Frederick Dietlein Jr.

Case Conclusion Date:July 6, 2011

Practice Area:Land Use / Zoning

Outcome:Defendant was able to keep his flag pole and fly the US and Marine flags.

Description:The Law Offices of Lawrence Dietlein teamed with Terry & Thweatt, P.C. to successfully represent a former United States Marine who was sued by his homeowner’s association in suburban Houston for erecting a 20 foot tall flag pole in his backyard. Out of love and patriotism for our great country and the brave men and women of the US Marine Corps who help defend it, our client flew both the American flag and the US Marine Corps flag upon the flag pole 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and fully complied with all federal regulations and guidelines concerning the appropriate and respectful display of our sacred, national colors. For instance, the flags were replaced anew every six months, properly illuminated at night, and as directed by the President, flown at half-mast during times of national mourning. We quickly established that none of our client’s neighbors had ever complained about the flag pole or the flags. On the contrary, they were unanimous in their appreciation for his display of patriotism. Yet, in violation of the federal law known as the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, the HOA unreasonably and unnecessarily prohibited the flag pole and any flag displayed upon it. The HOA even alleged, without any proof, that the sound of the flags fluttering in the wind was disturbing our client’s neighbors. We refuted that unfounded assertion, and agreed with our client who said that any such sounds were merely the “sounds of freedom.” The HOA’s lawsuit threatened our client with tens of thousands of dollars in potential fines, penalties, and attorney fees. Worse, if those fines were unpaid, the HOA threatened to place a lien on his house, and if necessary, to foreclose on his family home to secure payment. Citing the protections of federal law, we filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the case. As news of the case spread in the media, voices in opposition to the lawsuit eventually rose to the level that the lawsuit was dismissed by agreement of the parties. Our client’s flagpole is still standing—and the American and Marine Corps flags that proudly fly upon it—are still flying. Additionally, as a result of the case, the 2011 Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2779, which provided further protections for Texans to respectfully display the American flag, the Texas flag, and the flags of any branch of the United States armed forces without unreasonable interference from HOA’s in Texas. The bill is now Texas law. We defended our client pro bono and did not charge him any attorney fees for our representation.