LOUISVILLE, Ky. The city of Cloverport in Breckinridge County is facing a federal lawsuit over its curfew that prohibits anyone, including adults, from being out in public after midnight on weeknights and 1 a.m. on weekends.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky filed suit Oct. 1 in U.S. District Court in Louisville on behalf of four Cloverport residents.
The ACLU says the 2-year-old ordinance violates constitutional rights to assemble and travel, and places restrictions on people's liberties without due process.
According to the ordinance, it's illegal for anyone to be on the streets between midnight and 5 a.m. on weekdays and between 1 and 5 a.m. on weekends unless they are engaged in a lawful occupation, are traveling to or from their place of employment, or are en route to a specific legally permissible destination. No one has been arrested under the ordinance.
The lawsuit asks that the law be struck down and that the court order Cloverport to pay the ACLU's legal fees and any other damages the court sees fit.
Charles Mattingly III, Cloverport's lawyer, said yesterday that he would fight the lawsuit because he believes the curfew is constitutional.
Cloverport passed its law after an outbreak of vandalism in which a park bench was destroyed and several windows along Main Street and at City Hall were broken.
"Any constitutional right is subject to reasonable restrictions," Mattingly said. "Freedom of speech is limited to a certain extent you can't libel or slander someone and you can't yell 'fire' in a crowded theater."
He said that though the curfew is a restriction on freedom to assemble, "we believe it's a reasonable restriction, and we think the courts will uphold it."
David Friedman, general counsel for the ACLU of Kentucky, said some courts have struck down juvenile curfews, "but having a blanket rule that no one can be on streets late at night is tantamount to martial law."
"The ordinance forbids an early-morning walk, stargazing or simply riding around town late at night," said John Valentine, another ACLU lawyer.
The lawsuit names Darrell Embry, Raymond Harper, Marie Irby and Bob Mercer as plaintiffs. Embry said he had been instructed by ACLU lawyers not to talk about the case, and the other three could not be reached.
Two other Breckinridge County towns, Hardinsburg and Irvington, have similar curfews. Friedman said the ACLU chose to sue Cloverport because "that's where we had plaintiffs who wanted to file suit."
Mattingly said a previous curfew limited to juveniles apparently wasn't working. And, he said, there was concern that courts across the country had struck down some juvenile curfews because they violated the Constitution's equal-protection clause.
"We just felt the better procedure would be to make it applicable to everyone," he said.