2008-07-14

Noise ordinance case going to Supreme Court

University of Georgia students Robert Manlove and William Hoffman are taking their challenge to Athens-Clarke County's noise ordinance to the Georgia Supreme Court. Their attorney Charles A. Jones Jr. reports that they are appealing the case following a dismissal granted for the county in Superior Court by Judge David R. Sweat. Assistant county attorney Amy Gellins argued on April 14 that the case should be dismissed because neither Manlove nor Hoffman were actually facing potential prosecution under the ordinance and therefore had no standing to bring the case. Jones responded that the ordinance inhibits their right to free speech under the threat of prosecution, saying that county police have the discretion to cite violations on their first occurrence.

Judge Sweat dismissed the case on July 11, and the plaintiffs filed the notice of appeal three days later. Jones said in a statement: "After reading Judge Sweat’s opinion, I respectfully disagree with his legal conclusions, though I do appreciate the time and thought he put into this matter. Men of intelligence and good will disagree about the law all the time. I do believe that the majority of case law is decidedly on our side in this case, and I look forward to presenting that case law to the Justices of the Georgia Supreme Court."

Manlove and Hoffman filed their constitutional challenge in January. In the complaint Jones essentially argued that the noise ordinance which applies the same standard to different neighborhoods of different character is unconstitutional because it inhibits speech that may actually be appropriate for the character of certain areas such as downtown.

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