Thursday, July 19, 2018
News Roundup

Lawyer cited for blasting Justin Timberlake wins case with Florida Supreme Court

The Florida Supreme Court is bringing sexy back.

In a unanimous decision Thursday, the court struck down a state law regulating noise from car stereos in a case spearheaded by a St. Petersburg lawyer who received a citation in 2007 for blaring a Justin Timberlake song in his car.

The lawyer, Richard Catalano, 51, challenged the citation and courts repeatedly sided with him. But the state kept appealing.

The final declaration came Thursday, with the high court ruling that the statute is unconstitutional because it prohibits certain forms of speech while permitting others.

"I'm very pleased with it," said Catalano, who spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours fighting the case. "I think it was worth it."

But in Tampa, which put revisions to its own noise rules on hold while the case was heard, took something the court did not say in its ruling as a green light to now proceed.

And a Tampa City Council member who has taken an earful of complaints about loud car stereos wants to get moving on the local rules.

"We receive a lot of complaints from constituents about loud noise from automobiles," said council member Frank Reddick. "We tabled the discussion because we were waiting on a court ruling. If there's ground for us to go forward, and we can make this constitutional, I will definitely lead the effort."

Catalano was joined in the court case by Alexander Schermerhorn, a New Port Richey man also issued a citation under the same statute. Catalano declined to say which Justin Timberlake song he was listening to when he landed the $73.50 citation in November 2007.

The legal battle was closely watched by local governments throughout the state.

"It looks like the St. Pete police might have pulled over the wrong lawyer with a subwoofer," said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, an assistant professor at Stetson University College of Law. "I think that this court case is a homework assignment from the Florida Supreme Court for localities to go back and look at their ordinances to make sure they don't match the state statute."

The state law in question prohibits drivers from playing a car stereo or other device so loud that it is "plainly audible at a distance of 25 feet or more." It makes an exception for vehicles that are used "for business or political purposes."

That exception was at the heart of the court's reasoning that the statute violated the First Amendment.

"For instance, business and political vehicles may amplify commercial or political speech at any volume, whereas an individual traversing the highways for pleasure would be issued a citation for listening to any type of sound, whether it is religious advocacy or music, too loudly," wrote Justice Jorge Labarga.

Part of the state's argument was that the statute helped ensure traffic safety. But Labarga wrote that it's not clear how traffic safety is protected by allowing political or commercial speech, but prohibiting other speech.

Catalano said a number of attorneys have contacted him about filing a class action lawsuit to recover fees people have paid for previous violations of the state noise law.

St. Petersburg city officials did not return calls seeking comment about the ruling.

Tampa has been in limbo in recent years as City Council members have sought to modify an existing noise ordinance so it would be more useful.

But they wanted any changes to be constitutional. So they waited for the clarification.

Currently, Tampa bans noise above a certain decibel level. That requires expensive equipment not every police car has. It would be easier for authorities to enforce a noise ordinance that bans noise "plainly audible" from a certain distance.

It's a phrase many municipalities already use in their noise ordinances, said Tampa assistant city attorney Rebecca Kert.

As Catalano's case progressed, the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that the phrase "plainly audible" is unconstitutionally vague, overbroad or arbitrary.

But the Florida Supreme Court did not make an issue of that phrase.

That's all Tampa wanted.

"It leaves us with the ability to use this tool, and that in itself is a good thing for us," Kert said.

Times staff writer Jamal Thalji contributed to this report. Dan Sullivan can be reached at (727) 893-8321 or [email protected]

Comments
Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome shoots 78 in PGA Tour debut

Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome shoots 78 in PGA Tour debut

Seminole's Brittany Lincicome survived her first round on the PGA Tour at the Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Ky., on Thursday, and she can't wait to do it again Friday.Though Lincicome shot 6-over 78 and will likely miss the cut — she ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Longtime Tampa Catholic athletic director Nick DiMaggio dies

Longtime Tampa Catholic athletic director Nick DiMaggio dies

Nick DiMaggio, the longtime athletic director at Tampa Catholic who was a fixture at the school's sporting events for more than 50 years, died Wednesday (July 18, 2018) from complications related to a stroke. He was 86."Nick was an icon, a walking en...
Updated: 2 hours ago
A Florida mayor is being asked to resign after citizens allege his chief of staff ‘preys’ on homeless black men

A Florida mayor is being asked to resign after citizens allege his chief of staff ‘preys’ on homeless black men

ST. PETERSBURG — At Thursday’s City Council meeting, seven residents called for the resignation of Mayor Rick Kriseman and Kevin King — one of his closest confidants — over allegations that King "preys" on homeless black men.Jesse Nevel, the vice pre...
Updated: 2 hours ago
St. Pete residents storm City Council with allegations against Kevin King

St. Pete residents storm City Council with allegations against Kevin King

ST. PETERSBURG — At Thursday’s City Council meeting, seven residents called for the resignation of Mayor Rick Kriseman and Kevin King — one of his closest confidants — over allegations that King "preys" on homeless black men.Jesse Nevel, the vice pre...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Chickens remain free to range in Ybor

Chickens remain free to range in Ybor

TAMPA — Ybor City chickens have escaped the political chopping block — again.The Tampa City Council on Thursday declined to do anything about a wild flock of poultry that drew a loud, strong throng of supporters to City Hall to ask council members no...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Activists camp out in protest at Tampa’s Homeland Security, ICE offices

Activists camp out in protest at Tampa’s Homeland Security, ICE offices

TAMPA — The national movement to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency came to Tampa on Thursday night — and it’s in tents.Approximately 25 local activists gathered next to Cypress Drive in front of the local Department of Homeland S...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Marc Topkin: Rays should trade Chris Archer

Marc Topkin: Rays should trade Chris Archer

ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer wants the Rays to get going.Trade more veterans. Bring back Willy Adames and bring up the next group of kids. Get on with getting better, and get back to reaching the postseason, as they did four times over six yea...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida State defensive forecast not that simple

Florida State defensive forecast not that simple

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — His debut at the ACC kickoff attracted a wholly unsurprising assortment of topics. New FSU coach Willie Taggart was asked about his culture, his quarterbacks, his catch phrases.He handled each question deftly, hardly devi...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays journal: Catcher needed with Wilson Ramos on DL

Rays journal: Catcher needed with Wilson Ramos on DL

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays did not have any answers Thursday about the state of their catching situation as to how long Wilson Ramos will be out and who will be added to replace him Friday against the Marlins.Ramos was placed on the DL Wednesday...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Police: Pinellas infant on life support after father stuffs balled-up baby wipe down his throat

Police: Pinellas infant on life support after father stuffs balled-up baby wipe down his throat

TARPON SPRINGS — Cali’yah Anderson heard a scream Tuesday night and she thought someone was dying. "Help me! Help me! I can’t get it out!" Anderson sprinted into the living room at 1410 Starlight Cove two doors down from her own apartment and found a...
Updated: 3 hours ago