Dumb Law — Unconstitutional

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I managed to get a copy of the court opinion referred to in that Plain Dealer article. It’s an interesting combination of disdain that somebody would challenge a law that the judge saw as so trivial (love the little lecture!) with recognition of the limitations of government.

Enjoy:

Curran v. City of Youngstown

This day this cause came on to be heard on the Petition of the plaintiff, MRS. TERRIE CURRAN, against the CITY OF YOUNGSTOWN and the Council of said City, praying for a Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief. The Petition alleges that on Sept. 4, 1968m the City Council of Youngstown passed Ordinance No. 78254 requiring that all persons over six years of age wear footwear in certain prescribed areas of the City of Youngstown, and, further, providing for penalties in the event of any violation of the ordinance.

The plaintiff swears, under oath, that she intends to walk and appear in the areas in the City prescribed by the ordinance without footwear. She further alleges that the wearing of footwear in the prescribed areas violates her constitutional right of privacy, and deprives her of liberty without due process of law.

The Plaintiff asks the Court to declare the ordinance unconstitutional, and to enjoin its enforcement.

The bible in Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, proclaims:

    “For everything there is a season, and a
    time for every matter under heaven: * * *
    a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;”

The Court is of the opinion that this is a time when it should speak, and speak distinctly.

This case was filed for only one purpose, and that is, for notoriety, and not to protect any fundamental legal principles of law or the Constitution.

Although the pronouncement of the Court may be construed as obiter dictum, what I say in this Opinion must be said.

The plaintiff in this case is an English instructor at Youngstown State University. It would seem to the Court that included in the profession of teaching is not only instruction in the subject matter, but also instruction in good manners, The obligations of a teacher are to teach, to correct, and to give good example. Adequate competence in the subject matter is not sufficient.

It has been said that where good example is not given, instruction lacks a soul.

    “Manners adorn knowledge and smooth its
    way through the world.”
    (The Earl of Chesterfield.)

In fact, manners, morals, character, and dignity have an ethical significance which has the force of law.

This Court is convinced that the plaintiff will not sustain the respect of her students or maintain the dignity of her profession by walking down the main thoroughfare of this community in her bare feet. If the plaintiff feels that being deprived of her right to walk on the main thoroughfares of this community in her bare feet is an infringement of her liberty, her vision of her duties as a teacher is myopic.

This Court believes that the students’ lack of good manners, and their lack of respect for teachers are among the basic causes of the disturbances on college campuses which plague our land.

In a country involved in such events as the Vietnam War, taxes, student riots, and crime, which require the concentrated attention and service of all of us, it would appear that the Council of the City of Youngstown could spend its time more profitably than in passing ordinances prohibiting people from walking on the main thoroughfares in their bare feet.

This Court suggests to the Civil Liberties Union and its erudite counsel that their time could also be more profitably spent in teaching the preservation of our heritage of freedom, and respect for law which insures that freedom, rather than spend hours in research and preparation of a legal tome to prevent a school teacher from being deprived of her claimed right to walk down the main thoroughfare of this City in her bare feet. It should always be remembered that rights carry with them obligations.

Coming now to the issue in this case as to whether or not the ordinance in question is constitutional, it is quite obvious that it is not.

It quite patently violates the provisions of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution, because it involves the right of privacy which is no less important than any other right carefully and particularly reserved to the people. (Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479.) (Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319.) (Breen v. Kahl, 37 L.W. 2506.)

The Court further finds that the ordinance is unconstitutional because it violates the settled constitutional doctrine that a state’s police power can be properly exercised only where there is a reasonable relationship to the public health, safety, morals, or welfare, which does not exist in this case. (West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379.)

The Court further finds that the ordinance is not a bill of attainder.

In disposing of this case, the Court can find no better language than to interpolate the words of John Greenleaf Whittier in his poem, The Barefoot Boy:

    “Blessings on thee, barefoot girl.”

Therefore, the Court preserves this English instructor’s constitutional right to walk barefoot down Federal Street, and declares the ordinance unconstitutional.

Plaintiff’s attorney shall furnish a Journal Entry in accordance with the above findings.

Sidney Rigelhaupt, Judge

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2 Responses to “Dumb Law — Unconstitutional”

  1. Anemone Says:

    Oooh! Thank you for this.

  2. Dan Says:

    Thank you to Mrs. Curran for fighting for her rights! Seriously, Mrs. Curran deserves the gratitude of not only the SBL membership, but of everyone. Your constitutional rights, no matter how trivial they may appear to others, need to be preserved at all times. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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