East Lansing Riot Ordinance Ruled Unconstitutional
The so-called "riot" ordinance was designed to curb the swell of unruly crowds during the occasional but persistent student riots in and around the Cedar Village neighborhoods.
Our law firm routinely represents students from Oakland County that attend Michigan State University. On a few of those occasions, our clients have been charged with East Lansing's ordinance in the wake of a significant Spartan victory.
On both occasions, at the pretrials, we challenged the ordinance on constitutional grounds. Our argument was that the wording of the ordinance was vague and over broad, including within its scope legal conduct under our First Amendment right to peaceful assembly.
When we made that argument, we were offered plea reductions to trespass or disturbing the peace on both occasions, with the tickets being dismissed following a brief period of non-reporting probation. This, of course, removed the opportunity to further challenge the ordinance.
Now that at least one judge has ruled this ordinance unconstitutional, we shall see whether the township appeals the ruling. If they do, the matter will proceed to the Ingham County Circuit Court and, from there, to the Michigan Court of Appeals by application for leave.
East Lansing Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows stated that the township would either amend the ordinance to remove its unconstitutional bent, or appeal 54-B District Judge Andrea Larkin's order. The local police chief criticized Judge Larkin's order, saying the ordinance was an effective way of controlling large crowds and fires.
In a free society, however, the more a law chills free speech and freedom of assembly -despite its utility as a law enforcement tool- the closer it comes to violating of our fundamental rights. Unfortunately, one of the hallmarks of our free society is that Spartyville erupts following their big victories.