Court of Appeals to hear case on restrictions of adult stores

Circuit judge ruled limits on businesses' location are unconstitutional

Carroll County

May 25, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Maryland's highest court has decided to hear a case to determine whether Carroll County's ordinance regulating adult-themed stores is unconstitutional.

The case stemmed from the county's efforts to shut down Love Craft, an adult business outside Hampstead. But a Carroll County Circuit Court judge ruled nearly a year ago that Carroll's law restricting where adult entertainment businesses can open was unconstitutional.

The county appealed the decision to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the state's second-highest court. On May 14, the Maryland Court of Appeals decided to take the case on its own accord, county and Love Craft attorneys said yesterday.

The case is scheduled for oral arguments in the fall.

It's the latest development in a legal battle that started in December 2002 when the county cited Love Craft for violating a zoning ordinance spelling out where adult stores can be located.

In February last year, a Carroll County District Court judge granted the county an injunction against the store, located in a strip mall on Hanover Pike outside Hampstead.

Love Craft appealed the decision to Circuit Court, where Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. ruled that Carroll's adult-business ordinance was "vague and ambiguous, therefore unconstitutional."

Following Beck's ruling in August last year, Love Craft filed a request for reimbursement for attorneys fees and other legal expenses associated with the case.

This month, Beck let stand his decision ordering the county to pay $19,953.76 in legal costs. The county is appealing that decision as well, said County Attorney Kimberly A. Millender.

Meanwhile, the county has filed a brief in the case before the Maryland Court of Appeals, Millender said.

"We'll be defending the county's ordinance," she said.

Love Craft's attorneys are expected to file their brief by the end of this week, said Joseph S. Kaufman, one of two Baltimore attorneys representing Love Craft.

One of the issues they will argue is whether the case can be appealed again because Beck was acting in the capacity of an appellate court when he heard the case after the Carroll County District Court ruling, Kaufman said.

"There is one right of appeal," he said.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled on a similar case involving Howard County's adult-store ordinance.

Officials there tried to shut down Pack Shack, an Ellicott City adult store. When the store sued, a Howard County Circuit Court judge upheld the constitutionality of the law - a decision that was later affirmed by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

But the state's highest court ruled last year that Howard County's adult-bookstore ordinance was unconstitutional.

In March, a Howard County judge ordered the county to pay Pack Shack's legal costs.

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