An alternative to double-secret probation

An opinion issued today by the First Circuit Court of Appeals begins:

The town of Narragansett (the Town), a sleepy seaside community in southern Rhode Island, boasts some of the most beautiful beaches on the eastern seaboard. Each summer, the Town experiences a substantial influx of seasonal residents. Each fall, the Town empties out, leaving a large number of dwellings unoccupied. The Town’s proximity to the University of Rhode Island (URI) makes these dwellings attractive for student housing.

This thriving rental market among college students has proven to be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the clamor for student housing is an economic boon to property owners willing to rent their dwellings. On the other hand, the sheer mass of exuberant young people and their predilections have proven to be a threat to the quality of life in a quiet enclave.

In an effort to balance these competing concerns, the Town adopted a novel ordinance authorizing local police officers to post a bright orange sticker at the front entrance of any residence found to have hosted an “unruly gathering.” The ordinance has had its detractors, and this case was brought as a multifaceted challenge to it. The challengers complain that the ordinance is both preempted by state law and unconstitutional on its face.

The district court, in a thoughtful and comprehensive rescript, rejected these plaints. See URI Student Senate v. Town of Narragansett, 707 F. Supp. 2d 282 (D.R.I. 2010). After careful consideration, we find that the Town’s unorthodox solution to the problems caused by unruly gatherings does not, on its face, offend either state law or the United States Constitution. Accordingly, we affirm.

What would Dean Wormer do? Oh, right.

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