Appeals court panel to hear arguments about adult

March 05, 1995|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

Lawyers for Harford and Prince George's counties will present arguments to a panel of judges of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., Tuesday concerning each county's ordinances regulating dealers in pornographic magazines and movies.

At issue in each case is the time county officials are permitted to grant or deny licenses to applicants seeking to open adult bookstores.

In earlier, separate rulings, a three-judge panel of the appeals court appeared to decide that Harford's 45-day application period was acceptable but that Prince George's five-month application period was not.

In Harford County, a legal battle began soon after the adult bookstore law was enacted in May 1992. The county sought to establish new standards for adult bookstore operators and gain tighter controls, but lawyers for owners of Chesapeake B&M, operators of Highway Crafts, Gifts and Books of Aberdeen, went to federal court attacking the law's constitutionality.

In August 1992, Harford Circuit Court Judge William O. Carr ordered county law enforcement agencies not to enforce the new law until its constitutionality had been tested.

In August 1993, Walter E. Black, chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, ruled that Harford's adult bookstore law was acceptable, except for the portion dealing with specific time limitations during the application process.

Judge Black wanted the county to spell out what recourse applicants would have if officials failed to grant the application in a timely manner.

"Many of the legal principles from both counties' cases are the same," said Diane T. Swint, an assistant county attorney who will in Richmond to represent Harford County.

A published decision from Tuesday's proceedings probably will take many months, Ms. Swint said.

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