ACLU asks court to block Boardwalk ordinance silencing musicians

June 10, 2013

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CONTACT: Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland, 410-889-8555; media@aclu-md.org  

 

BALTIMORE - On Monday, June 10, a federal court will hear evidence and oral argument in Hassay v. Mayor and City Council of Ocean City, Maryland, an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland lawsuit challenging an unconstitutional noise ordinance that has been silencing musicians on the Ocean City Boardwalk. The ACLU is seeking a preliminary injunction to suspend enforcement of the ordinance while the case is under review. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of William F. Hassay, Jr., an accomplished violinist who has played for families on the Boardwalk for nearly two decades. 

 

Initially, Ocean City filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but has since withdrawn that motion and acknowledged that it lacked merit.

 

Maryland's federal court has previously ruled that the Boardwalk is a public forum, meaning that Ocean City may not place an undue burden on constitutionally protected speech. But in the summer of 2012, Hassay was threatened with arrest, up to three months imprisonment, and a $500 fine for playing his violin on the Boardwalk. Police were purportedly enforcing a noise ordinance that deems all music played on the Boardwalk from an instrument or device to be "unreasonably loud," and thus criminally prohibited, if it is "audible" from a distance of 30 feet.

 

The 30-foot audibility restriction on music violates the First Amendment. It also just makes no sense. The ACLU worked with an independent acoustical engineer who analyzed ambient sound at the Boardwalk and - to put the restriction in perspective - the jingling of a dog collar is audible more than 30 feet away on the Boardwalk.  Thus, performers are effectively prohibited from playing any music that anyone could hear. 

 

WHAT: Hearing on a motion for preliminary injunction in Hassay v. Mayor and City Council of Ocean City, Maryland, before United Stated District Judge Ellen W. Hollander.

 

WHO:  William F. Hassay Jr., ACLU client; Gary Ehrlich, independent acoustical engineer; attorneys James Burke, Matthew Jeweler and Kathleen Orr, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP; and Deborah Jeon, ACLU of Maryland Legal Director. 

 

WHEN: 10 AM, June 10, 2013 

 

WHERE: United States District Court, Courtroom 5B, 101 W. Lombard Street, Baltimore, MD.

 

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