You can laugh all you want at Matt Dowd and Zuma Dogg, otherwise known as David Saltsburg.
You can look down your nose at them. You can let them get under your skin and be annoyed by them.
But for the second time in recent years — with Dowd as their lawyer — they outsmarted all the lawyers and politicians in City Hall and won a federal court case against the City of Los Angeles.
On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Dean Pregerson ruled that two key elements of the city’s oft-rewritten ordinance intended to crack down on the vendors and street performers at Venice Beach is unconstitutional on their face (Venice Beach.rtf).
A couple of years ago, Dowd won a $500,000 judgment against the city on behalf of himself and Michael Hunt over similar issues involving the city’s efforts to control the antics that make Venice Beach what it is.
It was this case that prompted Zuma Dogg and Dowd to become regulars in Public Comment at City Council meetings. The city keeps stalling on the humiliating act of paying them the money by appealing the case although a more recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in a Seattle case has weakened the city’s claims.
The core issue then, as now, was freedom of speech, the First Amendment.
Pregerson ruled in this new case that he will issue an injunction against the city’s ban on the use of amplified sound speakers on the Venice Boardwalk and on the permitting system used by the city to limit the number of vendors and performers and contain them to about one-third of the Boardwalk.
“The Court concludes that the permit requirement is likely to violate the First Amendment and that, as a result, Plaintiffs are entitled to a preliminary injunction enjoining the permit requirement. The Court therefore need not address Plaintiffs’ alternative argument, that the permitting scheme grants unbridled discretion to licensing officials,” Pregerson wrote in his detailed 27-page opinion.
“Because Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claim that the amplified sound ban is facially overbroad (and because, as mentioned earlier, the balance of hardships and the public interest weigh in favor of enjoining regulations that violate the First Amendment), the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction …”
The judge did agree to the city’s request to dismiss the claim the entire vending ordinance is unconstitutional on the narrow grounds that Dowd and Zuma Dogg did not have standing.
He also ducked ruling on their challenge to the Council’s broad Rule 12 that has been used to cut of public comment and expel and ban Dowd and Zuma Dogg.
“The Court expresses no opinion on the merits of those claims,” the judge said.