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Federal District Court rules in favor of Brentwood in Contributor lawsuit

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of The Contributor newspaper organization and two of its vendors against the City of Brentwood. The lawsuit challenged a Brentwood ordinance that prohibits the sale or distribution of newspapers and other materials to occupants of vehicles on public streets. The ordinance also prohibits the solicitation of donations from vehicle occupants on streets.

In granting the city’s motion for summary judgment, Judge Todd Campbell held that the ordinance did not violate the First Amendment rights of The Contributor and its vendors. Judge Campbell’s opinion finds that the city’s ordinance was adopted for legitimate traffic and safety reasons, and not because of disagreement with the message of The Contributor. The opinion also finds that the ordinance leaves open ample alternative channels of communication for the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit was filed in 2011 after the Brentwood Police Department issued citations to vendors selling The Contributor. The citations were based on an older version of the city’s ordinance regulating solicitations in the public right-of-way, and were issued only after the vendors were asked to voluntarily comply with the city's regulations and failed to do so. The city subsequently adopted the new ordinance that became the subject of the lawsuit.

City Manager Mike Walker stated, “The city's primary concern in this matter has always been public safety. Selling newspapers or anything else to vehicle occupants on public streets creates a safety risk. It was never the city's intention to prohibit the sale of newspapers or to exclude anyone from Brentwood.”

City Attorney Roger Horner said, “The ordinance that was the subject of this lawsuit was not meant to address any specific organization or group of people. Our regulations are applied equally to everyone. We’re glad the court vindicated the city of Brentwood and its Board of Commissioners in our efforts to keep Brentwood streets safe.”

The City of Brentwood was represented in this matter by Robert Burns and Mark Harrod of the Nashville firm of Howell & Fisher.


Posted on: 11/14/2012


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