Musician gets $400,000 in First Amendment fightA musician who owns a night club was awarded $400,000 Wednesday in what she says is a victory for live music and the First Amendment.
By: By Mike Simonson, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
A musician who owns a night club was awarded $400,000 Wednesday in what she says is a victory for live music and the First Amendment.
In September, 2007, Hayward Police raided The Pavilion because they were performing live outdoor music after 10 p. m., violating a recently passed city ordinance. Molly Otis owns the place and performs in the group "Molly and the Danger Band." In this case, they were dangerous for the Hayward mayor and city council. A Federal Court jury in Eau Claire awarded Otis $400,000 in damages.
"It's ironically exactly the amount of money I had to borrow and put everything on the line to be able to get my business to survive," she said. "It's huge and it's a huge relief on me."
Her attorney Glenn Stoddard argued that local governments can pass noise ordinances, but can't single out music as in the Hayward case.
"The right to be heard and the right to express feelings and beliefs," he said. "That's done not only with speech but with music and expression. So that's very fundamental to the case. The other thing is the abuse of power by elected officials who should be representing all people in respecting these rights."
Otis says while the monetary award was important, she went to court on principle.
"I never dreamed I would ever be in court, let alone in federal court, let alone a First Amendment (case), but I tell you, I don't think I can think of anything more righteous than that," she said.
Stoddard is also suing the Village of Lake Nebagamon over a similar ordinance that fined the Waterfront Bar and Grill for live outdoor music. That case is pending.
The attorney for the City of Hayward was not available for comment.