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Comite Fiestas De La Calle San Sebastian Inc. v. Cruz Soto

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

May 29, 2019

COMITÉ FIESTAS DE LA CALLE SAN SEBASTIÁN, INC., Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
CARMEN YULÍN CRUZ SOTO, in her official and personal capacities; MUNICIPALITY OF SAN JUAN, Defendants, Appellees, SPANISH BROADCASTING SYSTEM OF PUERTO RICO, INC.; ALFREDO CARRASQUILLO, Defendants.

          APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO [Hon. Francisco A. Besosa, U.S. District Judge]

          Jane A. Becker Whitaker, with whom Law Offices of Jane Becker Whitaker was on brief, for appellant.

          Héctor Benítez Arraiza and Patricia Rivera MacMurray, with whom Quiñones, Arobona & Candelario, PSC, Giselle M. Martínez-Velázquez, and Raul S. Mariani-Franco were on brief, for appellees.

          Before Howard, Chief Judge, Thompson and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.

          KAYATTA, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         The Comité Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, Inc. ("the Comité") is a non-profit corporation that promotes and helps run the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This lawsuit arises from the Comité's unhappiness with its diminished assigned role as vendor and presenter at the 2015 Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián celebration. After discovery, the district court granted summary judgment for San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and the municipality of San Juan on the Comité's trademark-infringement and First Amendment retaliation, political discrimination, and religious discrimination claims. We now affirm.

         I.

         We first survey the pertinent facts. The Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián is a four-day festival held in Old San Juan. The Comité takes part in organizing and running the festival in conjunction with the municipality of San Juan and likens its role to that of the New York Road Runners in planning and orchestrating the New York City Marathon. Specifically, it "promote[s] traditional Puerto Rican music and culture, particularly the celebration of Saint [Sebastián]" at the festival. The Comité purports to be the successor organization of an older group, the Vecinos de la Calle San Sebastián, which revitalized the festival.

         In 2014, the Comité -- which considers itself an apolitical entity -- publicly criticized Mayor Cruz for deemphasizing the religious and traditional aspects of the celebration and for "turning historic Old San Juan into a big bar with contests to see who could drink the most." The Comité alleges that the municipality and Mayor Cruz, who is a member of the Popular Democratic Party, retaliated against the Comité in various ways in response to this criticism. Specifically, the Comité claims that the municipality awarded it a less advantageous vendor contract than in previous years; imposed upon the Comité onerous certification requirements that it did not enforce against two other vendors with connections to the Popular Democratic Party; and granted a coveted entertainment timeslot, during which the Comité had previously presented traditional Puerto Rican music, to a donor of the Popular Democratic Party.

         The Comité brought First Amendment political discrimination, retaliation, and religious discrimination claims as well as counts for trademark infringement, alleging that the Comité owns the "Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián" mark. After discovery, the district court granted summary judgment for Cruz and the municipality on all counts. Comité Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, Inc. v. Cruz, 207 F.Supp.3d 129, 148 (D.P.R. 2016). The Comité then filed a Rule 59(e) motion for reconsideration. The Comité's accompanying memorandum reasserted its position that the record precluded summary judgment on the Comité's political discrimination, trademark, and libel claims.

          In support of its trademark-infringement claims, the Comité also brought new evidence from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) in the form of a preliminary authorization to publish the "Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián" mark. Comité Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, Inc. v. Cruz, No. 14-1929 (FAB), 2017 WL 6888519, at *1 (D.P.R. May 19, 2017). The district court denied the motion, id. at *2, and this appeal followed.

         II.

         A.

         We first address our jurisdiction to consider the Comité's timely appeal. Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(c)(1)(B) requires that a notice of appeal "designate the judgment, order, or part thereof being appealed." While "[c]ourts will liberally construe the requirements of Rule 3," its strictures "are jurisdictional in nature, and their satisfaction is a ...


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