1st Circuit: R.I. town can target houses that host noisy parties

Thursday, January 6, 2011

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A federal appeals court has upheld a Rhode Island beach town’s use of orange stickers to mark houses that host noisy parties.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said yesterday in URI Student Senate v. Town of Narragansett that Narragansett’s orange sticker policy was constitutional, even if a little “unorthodox.”

The town ordinance, which had been challenged by University of Rhode Island students who live off-campus in Narragansett, allows police to place orange stickers on homes where loud and raucous parties have taken place.

In its opinion, a three-judge panel of the court rejected arguments that the ordinance was overly broad or vague.

“The appellants’ overbreadth argument misses the mark. The constitutionally protected right of association cannot be reinvented to suit a plaintiff’s fancy,” the appeals panel said. “It has never been expanded to include purely social gatherings. Rather, it is contingent on the presence of underlying individual rights of expression protected by the First Amendment. … There is no such underlying right at stake here.”

The appeals court also said that students and landlords who received the stickers did not suffer enough of a stigma to make the law unconstitutional.