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Friday, April 27, 2012

"Disorderly House" Statute Not Unconstitutionally Vague

The Nasty Habit Saloon (based on the facts of the case, probably a bad choice of a bar name...) was a popular bar in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, before its liquor license was revoked by the City after a series of fights between employees and the bar's customers.  The City claimed it was authorized to revoke the license on a state statute that authorizes suspension or revocation of a liquor license if the licensee "keeps or maintains a disorderly or riotous, indecent or improper house."  In its revocation decision, the City cited eight separate incidents at the bar involving fights between employees and customers that required police intervention.  The bar owner sued the City, alleging retaliation, denial of equal protection, and due process violations.  The district court ruled in favor of the City, and the bar owner appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  Hegwood v. City of Eau Claire, No. 11-1999 (7th Circuit, April 9, 2012).

On appeal, the Court determined that the statute was not unconstitutionally vague either on its face or as applied to the bar owner.

With respect to the "as applied" challenge, the Court determined that there was a disturbing pattern of violence and disruptive behavior, including bar employees hiding underaged customers from police and frequent physical altercations between employees and customers.  Based on these allegations, the Court determined that there "is no doubt that the conduct described...was disorderly, riotous, indecent or improper:  employees fought with patrons; brawls spilled onto the streets; underaged girls hid in the basement to escape detection; and a patron required detoxification because he was overserved." 

The Court also denied the bar owner's facial challenge to the statute, finding that the statute was sufficiently defined in at least one application, specifically against this bar owner.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink.

1 comment:

  1. Well I guess you can't say that the sanction isn't justified. Alcohol and brawls don't really go well together in any neighborhood.
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