The long-festering dispute between the city and the local Boy Scouts chapter over the chapter's right to occupy headquarters on city property may finally be resolved next week during a civil trial in a federal courtroom here.
The city and the the Scouts' local chapter, Cradle of Liberty Council Inc., were unable to settle their differences last August.
U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter declined to grant motions by both parties to decide the case without a trial on April 22. That trial is expected to last about a week.
On Friday, both sides filed court papers laying out their legal arguments, as well as identifying witnesses who may be called and damages sought.
At issue is whether the city must continue to provide the Scouts with rent-free occupancy of a 1928 Beaux Arts building it owns at 22nd and Winter streets near the Parkway. (Cradle pays the city $1 annually to lease the property.)
The Boy Scouts of America Inc. bars anyone who is openly gay from being a member - which violates a 1982 city ordinance banning discrimination based upon sexual orientation, the city said.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that because the Boy Scouts is a private group, it has a constitutional right to associate with whomever it wants and government cannot interfere with it.
The city contends that doesn't mean it must subsidize the rent of any organization that discriminates.
As city officials were preparing to file suit in state court in early June 2008 to boot Cradle of Liberty or get it to agree to pay $200,000 in annual rent, Cradle pre-empted the city and sued it in federal court in May 2008.
Cradle alleged that the city breached its rights to freely associate and be afforded equal protection to other similarly situated organizations.
The city seeks $333,000 in damages, the rent it claims Cradle owes since June 2, 2008.
Several high-ranking officials of the former Street administration could testify for the city, including former city solicitor Romulo Diaz Jr. and former chief of staff Joyce Wilkerson. (Diaz also may testify for Cradle. Former mayor John Street is not listed as a potential witness.)
Cradle said in court papers that the city's eviction efforts were "motivated solely by its hostility to the viewpoint" expressed by the Boy Scouts' national membership policy.
The court filing said the city leases about 75 other buildings on Fairmount Park property to nonprofits that pay no or nominal rent, including several that have "exclusive" membership policies.
Cradle wants a permanent ban preventing the city from evicting it based on compliance with a national membership policy, as well as a judge's ruling that the city's eviction attempts trampled its constitutional rights.
The lawsuit also seeks awards of $800,000 in attorneys fees and $60,000 in litigation costs.