US District Court, Florida decision entered March 31, 2014.

This case involves an HOA’s restrictions regarding the flying of the American flag by an association member. The Association has specific rules regarding the display of flags that do not include the allowing them to be placed in planting pots. The member was repeatedly fined by the Association for violating the rules by placing a small American flag in garden pots outside the front door to his condominium.

The member filed an action against the HOA in federal court based on claims that the Association violated the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, and claims that the Association violated his fundamental right to free speech that is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. The action included additional claims that were based on alleged violations of state laws.

The Court dismissed the member’s claims that were based on the federal laws because the claims pertained to “private conduct” and the member failed to assert any allegations that demonstrated that the state or any governmental entity had exercised any coercive power or encouraged the HOA to enforce a rule prohibiting the display of the American flag. The Court also determined that the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 does not provide an enforcement mechanism or create a private right of action for individuals to bring actions against a homeowners association. Because the only remaining claims were based on state laws, the Court concluded that they should be addressed by the appropriate state court and remanded the case to state court for further proceedings on the state court claims.

See decision: Murphree_v._Tides_Condo._at_Sweetwater_(M.D._Fla._2014)1