(Case No. 3:11-cv-00270, U.S. District Court, Eastern District, Knoxville, Judge Varlan)
ACLU-TN Cooperating Attorney: Timothy A. Housholder, of Gilreath & Associates,
Plaintiffs: Rose Williams
Defendants: City of Sevierville
In the fall of 2010, Rose Williams decided to expand her fortune telling business to a storefront location in Sevierville, Tennessee. She entered into a lease for a retail store in the downtown area in September 2010, but was unable to open her fortune telling practice after the city threatened to fine her and close down her business because of specific restrictions in city zoning ordinances placed on psychic and palm reading activities. Because Ms. Williams was not allowed to practice fortune telling at this location, she tried to make use of the space by selling retail items such as crystals and books. However, the business was not sufficiently profitable and she was forced to close it in December 2010. Subsequently she had to pay rent for a business she had been unable to operate.
ACLU-TN filed a lawsuit in federal court on Ms. Williams’s behalf, asserting that her rights to freedom of speech and expression were being violated by a local zoning ordinance that treats fortune telling as an “adult oriented activity” and severely restricts where psychic businesses can operate.
As a result of the lawsuit, Sevierville amended its zoning ordinances in September 2012 and removed all references to psychic and palm reading activities. The lawsuit was dismissed on October 9, 2012 after the revised ordinances took effect.
Williams v. City of Sevierville – Complaint (June 15, 2011)