Federal Judge Lawrence King on Tuesday ruled the New Year’s curfew imposed by the City of Key West does not violate protections under the U.S. Constitution and denied a temporary restraining order that would have banned enforcement.
Key West resident Andrew Day filed the suit, saying the city’s emergency directive was a violation of his First Amendment rights. On Monday, Dec. 28, one day prior to the hearing, the City clarified its emergency directive so that it made clear the restriction on public gatherings around New Year’s was adopted in good faith, and that the public interest exceeds the claims of the plaintiff.
Day’s attorney, William Athas of Miami, hinged his case squarely on protections granted by the U.S. Constitution, arguing those rights remain even in times of an emergency. Athas claimed the city’s curfew would detain 25,000 citizens in their residences for three nights, an unreasonable burden, and cited a recent case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of the Catholic Diocese in New York, in which the justices said the Constitution cannot be set aside, even during a pandemic.
King ruled otherwise, writing the “The City of Key West has a substantial government interest in preserving and protecting the health of its citizens. The Key West Emergency Directive is narrowly tailored to an eight-hour period covering three evenings, and it leaves open ample alternative modes of communication and assembly. The Directive therefore survives intermediate scrutiny.”
More than 140 viewers attended the online hearing Tuesday morning.
— Key West Chamber of Commerce