Smoking Ban Lawsuit Placed On "Rocket Docket"
Federal judge gives shorter than normal time for depositions and briefs
The legal challenge to the smoking ban in Indianapolis and Marion County will move forward quickly.
A federal judge laid out a speedy court calendar for briefs and depositions in the lawsuits filed by ten bars and two bar patrons against the ban that took effect June 1st. Evidence will be collected and bar owners will be deposed over the next month, rather than the customary discovery period of two or three months.
Owners of the bars say their business dropped drastically since the ban, with many saying they are in danger of closing. Attorney Mark Small, who represents the bars, says they are also challenging the ban based on the right to freely associate with whomever you choose as well as the medical studies used by the city, or as Small calls it, "the junk science that people who say there is harm from secondhand smoke push. Each of those arguments is equally important." Small has already asked the court to put the law on hold while it considers the lawsuit.
Small seemed pleasantly surprised that the court approved the fast docket, saying he was prepared to ask for an emergency injunction against the law if the period open for evidence gathering were longer and the law were left in place. "In order to establish that (the bars' business was harmed by the ban), then the city is going to ask for discovery. That prolongs the time in which they are not allowed to have smoking on their premises, which means they lose more money."
One of the individuals challenging the ban, Bobby Long, is representing himself in court. "I'm pretty good at the law. I've dabbled with it most half of my life now. I'm pretty good at it. I felt my chances were better just going pro se," the Latin legal term for acting as your own attorney. Long argues that forcing him to go outside to smoke endangers his health, exposing him repeatedly to the sun during our warmer than normal summer. When asked why he wouldn't simply quit smoking, Long said it is his right to use a product that is not outlawed. "I choose not to (quit). It's legal. I enjoy it. One day, I probably will, but as it stands right now, I enjoy it," Long said.
Lindsay Grace with Smoke Free Indy, which helped lead the fight for the smoking ban, says her side also wants to see the case move quickly if nothing more than to see it go away. "We have since kind of moved on, and we think this process is kind of holding the city back. I think most of the city and the majority of the bars are accepting the ordinance even if they don't agree with it."
Grace says several bars have told Smoke Free Indy their business has gone up since the ban went into place, and Grace is confident the city's legal standing is firm. "None of these ordinances at the local level or at the state level have been overturned in the United States six years. Nor has any case in Indiana been successful at the municipal level."
Attorneys for the city would not comment on the merits of the lawsuit, saying they are prevented by policy from talking about pending lawsuits. They have until the end of this week to ask for documents from bar owners related to their financial condition. The city will then have 14 days to collect depositions, after which a judge will hold a hearing on the bar owners' request for an injunction as well as a request from the city to dismiss the lawsuits.
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