Alaska court rejects free-association challenge to smoking ban

Monday, October 26, 2009

JUNEAU, Alaska — A Superior Court judge has rejected a private group’s claim that it should not be subjected to Juneau’s smoking ban.

In its lawsuit, the Fraternal Order of Eagles said the ordinance infringed on its right to privacy and its freedom of association under the United States and Alaska constitutions.

It also claimed illegal intrusion by Juneau police in enforcing the ordinance.

But Judge Philip Pallenberg wrote in the summary judgment, which was filed Oct. 14, that the Juneau Assembly has the right to pass laws protecting public safety, and other courts have uniformly rejected claims that smoking ordinances infringe on the freedom of association.

“One could not seriously argue that application of other penal laws, such as the laws against drug possession, theft, sexual contact with minors, or prostitution, to the conduct of members within the confines of a private club infringes upon the members’ freedom of association,” Pallenberg wrote, according to the Juneau Empire. “All such laws regulate the actions of the members, not their choice of the people with whom they associate. In terms of its impact on freedom of association, regulation of smoking as an activity is not different in kind from regulation of these other activities.”

The city banned smoking in all bars as of Jan. 2, 2008.

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