(Case No. 3:11-cv-00624, U.S. District Court, Middle District, Nashville, Judge Campbell)
ACLU-TN Cooperating Attorney: Irwin Venick, of Dobbins, Venick, Kuhn & Byassee
Plaintiffs: The Contributor, Calvin Hart, Andrew Harrington
Defendants: City of Brentwood
The Contributor, a Nashville-based nonprofit organization, is a street newspaper that focuses on issues surrounding homelessness and poverty. The papers are sold by homeless and formerly homeless individuals.
In January 2011, The Contributor distributors Calvin Hart and Andrew Harrington were issued citations for violating a Brentwood city ordinance that did not allow selling of materials or merchandise from any public street, alley, or sidewalk to an occupant of a vehicle that is on a street. The distributors were merely exercising their First Amendment rights and neither was obstructing or blocking the flow of traffic.
ACLU-TN filed a lawsuit on behalf of The Contributor and vendors Hart and Harrington. The lawsuit argued that the City of Brentwood’s ordinance violates the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press by prohibiting The Contributor from distributing its newspaper in traditional public fora and sharing its message in Brentwood.
U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell dismissed the lawsuit on November 13, 2012. On appeal, the decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. The court held that Brentwood does not unconstitutionally block The Contributor and its distributors from working within the city because they are only forbidden from selling to the general citizenry in this specific way – to occupants of vehicles on the street – not from selling entirely.
The Contributor, et. al., v. City of Brentwood – Complaint (June 29, 2011)