Thursday, April 19, 2007

LO Kurfew Kids Get Medieval on City, File Federal Lawsuit

I'm excited by a new federal lawsuit filed in Portland yesterday by five kids from Lake Oswego High. As a result of an advanced civics project, and with the assistance of the Oregon ACLU, the students are suing to have the town's curfew laws repealed on Fourth Amendment grounds. I've been keeping an eye on the students since back in December, when they made what I'm sure the City Council figured to be a fairly perfunctory presentation for school credit. When it became clear that these kids were actually motivated, it then became a question of whether Council took their claims seriously:
“The City Council seems more interested in playing word games with the existing ordinance rather than addressing the fundamental question of fairness and constitutionality of curfew,” Goldsmith said.

Added junior Paul Trompke: “We get the feeling the council thinks we will just go away. We hope this lawsuit finally convinces them that we are serious.”
By offering a compromise to the teens, in the latter's view it showed they were not serious after all--for who in their right mind compromises on a Constitutional right?

As we discussed in the first article, the students are likely to rely heavily on Nunez v San Diego, which used the so-called "strict scrutiny" standard of evaluation in their ruling against San Diego's curfew. In the view of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the right of teens to be free in their movement is so fundamental as to require a compelling state interest to restrict it. Other courts that have used the lower standard requiring only a general state interest have found on behalf of cities, but the 9th's decision in Nunez is the current prevailing precedent for Oregon if I'm not mistaken--so the short story is that these kids actually have a case. The question should revolve around whether LO's curfew is similar to San Diego's, but what we do know is that it's similar to a state version of the curfew, and those of cities across the country. This now becomes another good test case for the law's continued viability.

These young people are a shining beacon in a dark time, a time when most people do little more than shrug at fundamental violations of the Constitution like suspending habeas corpus and declaring people outside the bounds of the "archaic" Geneva Conventions. Notably, co-spokesperson and new senior class President Paul Trompke says he and his fellow patriots have not been personally affected by the curfew, which in low-crime Lake O is rarely officially enforced. But in the true spirit of commonwealth, they know others who have been, and seek to speak for the right of all students to behave as independent actors, their behavior controlled primarily by their parents rather than the state.

I've said it once and I'll say it again: these kids kick ass. Godspeed on their journey.