Constitutional lawyer says Paducah resolution may violate Constitution

PADUCAH – Is the Paducah Veterans Day Parade resolution constitutional? That’s the question City Commissioner Richard Abraham asked two weeks ago at a city commission meeting.

Abraham asked the commission to review the resolution and vote to rescind it. The commission voted to not rescind the resolution 3-1 Tuesday, citing legal opinions by three law firms that were consulted before the resolution was passed in the first place. The three law firms were Denton Law, KKHBS, and Kentucky League of Cities.

Local 6 filed an open records request after the meeting for copies of the written legal opinions. Wednesday, we called again asking for those documents, but we were told to submit another records request. We did, then the city told us that they could not release them right away. The city said they would need to wait for them to be finalized by the law firms.

Once the commission used those legal opinions as part of their vote, they should have been made available to the public.

We spoke to Louisville constitutional lawyer Michael Abate. He says there could be legal issues with the resolution.

“The city, as a state actor, can’t discriminate against groups based on their viewpoint on the content of their speech or message they want to convey,” says Abate.

Abate says the resolution would need to go through the courts for the legality to be determined.

“It kind of falls into a crack in the existing law — some pretty clear law about a privately sponsored parade and some pretty clear law about public speech,” says Abate.

Abraham spoke with us by phone Wednesday. He says his intent was to make sure no one’s rights were being violated by the resolution.

“In this charged atmosphere of people misleading, telling the truth has almost become revolutionary,” says Abraham.

Abate says he can see where this resolution could be in violation of the Constitution.

“There is no case exactly on point, but I could easily see a number of fact patterns where a court would find a constitutional violation if groups are not treated evenhandedly,” says Abate.

We reached out to City Manager Jim Arndt and Mayor Brandi Harless about the subject, but we haven’t heard back.

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