East Lansing Fire Law Ruled Unconstitutional
The Lansing State Journal is reporting that a local judge has ruled that a city ordinance pertaining to fires and celebrations is unconstitutional. 54-B District Court Judge Andrea Larkin made the ruling after hearing defense arguments from two women charged with being within 300 feet of a fire without reporting it.
The ordinance was enacted in 1999 in an effort to curb the celebrations, fires, riots, what-have-you, that have embarrassed the city and Michigan State University nationally. It has been commonplace over a number of decades for students and MSU fans to gather in large crowds setting anything in reach ablaze...see the many years of Cedar Fest and agonizing sports losses. Though public fire displays have heavily, heavily outweighed any injuries or disruptions to public safety, city officials drew up the 300 foot law to ensure that services of police and fire officials are not over-extended.
In the case that resulted in Judge Larkin's decision, the State Journal article paints a picture of two women who were walking past a burning mattress in East Lansing. One of the ladies took a photo of the fire. But, neither reported it to the arresting police officer who was walking right towards them...and the fire. A fire that, if visible by these ladies and a camera lens, one should assume was also within the sight of a police officer walking the same block. In the article, the defense attorney brings up a great point. What if you were a part of a group gathered on a porch while neighbors within 300 feet of you (typically equating to a three or four doors down in East Lansing) lit a fire. Even if you mind your own business and pay no mind, under the ordinance language, you have become a criminal in the eyes of East Lansing.
East Lansing city officials are currently reviewing the judge's ruling with the city attorney.