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Thomas & Windy City Hemp Development Board v. Chicago Park District

United States Supreme Court
534 U.S. 316 (2002)


The Chicago Park District (defendant) was responsible for operating public parks and other public property in Chicago. It adopted an ordinance that required a person to obtain a permit in order to “conduct a public assembly, parade, picnic, or other event involving more than fifty individuals,” or to engage in any other activity creating amplified sound. The ordinance provided that applications for permits would be processed in the order in which they were received, and that the Park District was required to either grant or deny the permit within fourteen days of receiving the application unless it decided to extend the decision period for another fourteen days. Applications could be denied based on thirteen different grounds, but the Park District had to clearly set forth its reasons for a denial in writing. Unsuccessful applicants could file written appeals with the Park District within seven days of a denial. Thomas & Windy City Hemp Development Board (TWCHDB) (plaintiff) applied to the Park District on several occasions for permits to hold rallies advocating the legalization of marijuana. The Park District granted some permits and denied others. However, TWCHDB filed suit in district court under 42 U.S.C. §1983 on the grounds that the Park District’s ordinance was unconstitutional on its face. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Park District, and the court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

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