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Published: Saturday, 12/10/2005

Nuisance party law is upheld on appeal

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The 6th District Court of Appeals yesterday upheld Bowling Green's right to cite hosts of parties whose guests are engaging in illegal activities, saying the 1 1/2-year-old nuisance party law was constitutional.

Student Legal Services Inc. at Bowling Green State University challenged the law intended to quell loud college parties, saying the ordinance violated students' rights of due process and free assembly.

"I'm satisfied that this statute has been reviewed by both the Bowling Green Municipal Court and the 6th District Court of Appeals, and they've upheld it completely as being constitutional," said City Prosecutor Matt Reger, who modeled the law on similar ordinances in other college towns, including Oxford, Ohio, home of Miami University.

Bowling Green City Council adopted the law in June, 2004, saying it would give police another tool for dealing with loud, off-campus parties that disrupt neighborhoods.

The law allows police to shut down parties and cite the hosts if their guests are breaking any laws, such as underage drinking, disorderly conduct, or littering.

The appellate court said in its ruling yesterday that the law was "neither unreasonable nor arbitrary" and had "a real and substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare of the public."

In their opinion, the judges cited a memo by former City Councilman Michael Zickar, who, as chairman of council's community improvement committee, said the purpose of the ordinance was "to hold people accountable who throw large parties that get out of control."

The judges wrote that such parties "disrupt neighborhoods with acts such as public urination, criminal damage, littering, and noise. Abating such nuisances is a legitimate state interest."

Rodney Fleming, managing attorney for Student Legal Services, said he had not read the 15-page opinion and could not comment.

"We will talk to our clients and review the decision thoroughly and make a decision on whether to appeal it to the [Ohio] Supreme Court," Mr. Fleming said.

Mr. Reger said that despite the legal challenges, city police have continued to cite residents for nuisance party violations, which are a minor misdemeanor punishable by a $50 fine.

Although some minor amendments were suggested by former Councilman Zickar, Mr. Reger said he does not believe the law needs tweaking.

"It doesn't seem to, based on the 6th District's ruling," Mr. Reger said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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