Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Judge again upholds city’s smoking ban

June 7, 2006


A Douglas County District Court judge has again rejected arguments that the city's smoking ban is unconstitutional.

Judge Jack Murphy issued an order, released Tuesday, denying a request by Lawrence bar operator Dennis Steffes to suspend the city's smoking ban while he wages a lawsuit alleging the ban is unconstitutionally vague and illegally oversteps state law.

Murphy had ruled in late December the smoking ban was constitutional, but Steffes - who operates Coyotes and Last Call nightclubs - asked the court to reconsider.

Murphy again rejected Steffes arguments and said there was no evidence to support suspending the ban, nor was there evidence the ban was unconstitutionally vague or overreaching.

Steffes first filed a lawsuit challenging the ban - which began in July 2004 - in early 2005 after his businesses received five citations for violating the ban, which prohibits all indoor smoking in places of employment.

The city's Municipal Court found him innocent on four of the citations. Steffes appealed the one conviction in Douglas County District Court, but the city later dropped the charges. Steffes, though, continued with his constitutional challenge to the law.

Steffes on Tuesday said he was in the process of filing an appeal with the Kansas Court of Appeals.

"We fully expected the response that we received," Steffes said. "This was pretty much a technicality. This case hasn't had a fair shake since it started in Lawrence. It is pretty obvious that it needs to get out of town."

City staff attorneys said they would be ready if that happens.

"If Mr. Steffes appeals it, we will vigorously defend it," said Toni Wheeler, a staff attorney who represented the city.


Bill Smith 11 years, 4 months ago

Find something better to do with your time....sheeeeesh!

Bill Smith 11 years, 4 months ago

Kline - my hope is that your comment is one of sarcasm. However, if not, what is the source of this article reporting on this "soon-to-be-released" CDC report.

lunacydetector 11 years, 4 months ago

gee, what will people do if they ban second hand gas? i read somewhere it causes global warming. guess it "Depends" -har, har.

quigley 11 years, 4 months ago

Hi. Im the owner of Last Call. I would say my biggest agenda right now is fighting the smoking ban. Whhhhhhaaaaaaaat?????

Newport 11 years, 4 months ago

Give me a break. This guy plans to sue over this ban? Get ready for another "Wal Mart" type lawsuit where this guy gets the financial backing from Big Tobacco while the city and taxpayers scrape to defend themselves. There are bans like this all over the country and he thinks he can fight it!

I know, lets amend the constitution to prohibit smoking!

Richard Heckler 11 years, 4 months ago

Perhaps Last Call should go out of town. That place costs the taxpayers too much money. I suggest Mr.Steffes relocate himself and his clubs to Crawford,Texas so George W. will have a destination point for recreation once Laura dumps him... now that she's discovered her husband has a huge lying problem.

Liberty 11 years, 4 months ago

Some things government just was not intended to do. One of them is create bans to tickle the noses of those that like oppression from government to lord over others for things that they themselves can't stop, so they want government to do it for them.

jafs 11 years, 4 months ago

In order to protect the rights of all citizens, it is sometimes necessary for individuals to curb their expressions of personal freedom. If they are not willing to do this voluntarily, then government has the right and duty to create laws. The "don't go there if you don't like it" argument is superficial. It can be used to allow discrimination of all kinds. Imagine if we had not instituted civil rights laws - after all, if "they" don't like it, they don't have to live in the South.

Liberty 11 years, 4 months ago

"In order to protect the rights of all citizens, it is sometimes necessary for individuals to curb their expressions of personal freedom."

Where did you get that one, right from Communist Red China or Russia?

jafs 11 years, 4 months ago

If we are ALL endowed with the rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" (found in our Constitution, by the way), then it is clear that none of us are entitled to unlimited freedom, as the exercise of unlimited freedom will interfere with others' rights. Many of our laws are based on this concept.

jayhawks71 11 years, 4 months ago

Liberty, you make a habit of using lie and hyperbole to make nearly all of your points.

Our latest example: "Some things government just was not intended to do. One of them is create bans to tickle the noses of those that like oppression from government to lord over others for things that they themselves can't stop, so they want government to do it for them."

Neither the smoking ordinance nor a a cell phone ordinance does either of these; neither requires (nor has) the motives that you attribute.

and our hyperbole: "Where did you get that one, right from Communist Red China or Russia?"

Ahh so if one believes what the other person said, they must be a Commie Red and therefore accept all the baggage that goes with those terms. I suppose you could just as likely call someone who eats food a Commie, because, indeed they eat food as well.

Am I mistaken or does pursuit of happiness only appear in the Declaration of Independence. ("We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ")

Rights to life, liberty, and property appear in the Consitution, and then only in Amendments V and XIV. If you find pursuit of happiness in the US Constitution, please let me know.

Liberty 11 years, 4 months ago

Your ban infringes on everyones right of liberty by abusing government power for your special interest and forcing it on everyone. Bans are a recent development in city governments (A power grab). It sets a bad example that people allowed a city to have a ban (justifying their authority to ban whatever they want without limit), when they do not have the authority to blanket everyone with a special interest such as the fireworks ban. What will the city not be able to do to you if you allow this ban? This is not an intelligent thing to do for the future of Lawrence or for the United States of America. They have already attempted to ban cell phones, (they are already drunk with this new found power that you want to give them so much) so no one can have the freedom to call in certain places because it might hurt someone if something happens? It is all for your safety you know, so that makes it okay, we can do to you whatever we want whether you like it or not.

We have enough laws, we don't need more. We need less laws and smaller government and lower taxes and common sense.

If you don't like to smoke, don't smoke. If you don't like the smoke in a place, then don't go there. You have a choice. With a ban, all choice is taken away. Government was certainly not ever intended to operate against the people in this way and should not be allowed to.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 4 months ago

I thought we were gonna ban everything? Even a ban on bans'.

jafs 11 years, 4 months ago

Liberty, if common sense prevailed in this country, we would not need so many laws. Unfortunately, Americans seem to be a bit bereft of common sense and consideration for others. It seems clear to me that government regulation is necessary when corporate corruption is rampant, and that laws are necessary when people cannot be relied upon to act in a civilized manner. It is also interesting to me that the simple concept of acting with consideration for others is so foreign to many Americans. When there are legitimate concerns about public safety (e.g. cell phone use while driving), why shouldn't government be involved and try to prevent injury to the public? Americans seem obsessed with the notion of personal freedom, and strangely blind to others' rights. Jayhawks, I take your point. It is in the Declaration of Independence, also a very important document in the founding of this country.

jafs 11 years, 4 months ago

My point was - far from being a Communist idea, the notion of protecting everyone's rights is in fact a basic American one.

monkeywrench1969 11 years, 4 months ago

I don't think he is concerned about citations for cig smoke...more like gun smoke

jayhawks71 11 years, 4 months ago

Liberty, you are off your rocker. You do not have absolute freedom under a right to liberty. When you exercise your freedom and it infringes on my right to live, you have overstepped your freedom.

"Bans" are NOTHING NEW. They might be new to you, but laws that restrict or prohibit are the same as bans. A speed limit of 20 on a side street is a BAN on speeds higher than 20!!!! That is a specific situation in which something is prohibited, just like the smoking ordinance and the proposed cell-phone ordinance.

YOU are an anarchist. Government has no purpose but to protect rights. The right to live trumps the right to liberty when pitted against one another.

And how is choice taken away with a non-smoking ordinance? Just as one who doesn't smoke can "suck it up" or not go there, a smoker can do the same. Go there and partake in the restaurant's primary purpose (eat and drink) or choose your cigarette. When one is a non-smoker, you have restricted that person from enjoying the restaurants PRIMARY purpose without putting his life (to which one has a right) in danger. A smoker can still enjoy the restaurants PRIMARY purpose with or without an ordinance.

When the government intervenes, it has the primary purpose of protecting rights. If a rights infringer is pitted against a rights holder, the infringer will lose. The government was created for exactly this reason. One of the people will be on the unhappy end of the situation.

The mischaracterization that these requests for government intervention into restrictions because someone doesn't like it are rampant and untrue.

Jafs, the problem with common sense is that the concept is vague, just like inattentive driving. A good law is a specific law; I want to know WHAT is restricted. People have been posting for days on the topic of attention and they have little concept of what attention really is, they have, what they perceive to be a "common sense" understanding of it; I want to know by what criterion or criteria a law enforcement official is going to judge my inattentiveness short of me saying "oh I wasn't paying attention officer."

jayhawks71 11 years, 3 months ago

Well Marion, I see you posted this a while back, but I just came across it, so I will respond.

I would like to enter a place, called a restaurant (a place where meals are served to the public.) for a MEAL. A meal is defined as "the food served and eaten in one sitting." When I am out in public, I am a part of "the public."

A restaurant, by definition has as its primary purpose, to provide a meal. [begin the simple answer to your question] Let's say I really enjoy a Jefferson's hamburger and their delicious sweet tea and a few hot wings. Jefferson's makes an implicit contract with me; that is, they will provide a meal and in return I will pay them a fee for their efforts and their product. [end simple answer to your question] Marlboro Man, as a smoker, has the identical privilege of enjoying the Jefferson's hamburger, sweet tea, and a few hot wings. THIS is what the corporation provides to THE PUBLIC.

Now, Marlboro Man comes in and says "well, I want to smoke." When Marlboro Man controls his smoke, and confines that smoke to his ambulatory property (himself) he does not infringe on my right to life; when he fails to confine that smoke to his property, he infringes on my right to life.

No smoker rights or privileges are abridged when the smoker is forbidden from partaking in his/her habit. He/she is still allowed to partake in the express PURPOSE of a restaurant (a member of the public being served a meal.) I should be afforded those same rights and privileges. As sovreigns, you have every right to do with your body what you see fit AS LONG AS you do not infringe upon my rights and freedoms.

KsTwister 10 years, 2 months ago

Think its time to open a private club for "smokers only". Even with a high membership fee for air handlers that would be one booming establishment. You don't smoke---well, its private and you can't join unless you do or work there. Tobacco is not illegal, get over it. Premium cigars, alcohol, pool and card games. The very reason pubs were created in the first place. A place where you will probably find some businessmen,veterans,nurses and people who would appreciate a place out of the cold.

jonas 10 years, 2 months ago

Does anyone know how the Men's Room was set up? Could you even get alcohol there, or was it just basically a building that you could go in, play a game of pool on one of their two tables and that was it? Since I quit smoking long before the ban I had no reason to go in, but I did notice that it failed very quickly.

jonas 10 years, 2 months ago

Liberty: let me fix this for you.

"Liberty (Anonymous) says:

Some things government just was not intended to do. One of them is create bans to tickle the noses of those that like oppression from government to lord over others for things that they themselves (don't have the initiative to) stop, so they want government to do it for them."

I'm still saddened that the issue being discussed is the rights of smokers versus the rights of nonsmokers, as it's a false face to the issue, that then allows long pointless posts that may seem reasonable, but have no real backing in any constitutional sense or rights sense. It's really very simple, though.

There is no right to smoke. Period. There is no right to breathe clean air. Period.
There is a right to own property, and part of ownership implies freedom of expression within your own property. This is the crux of the matter, whether that right includes the abilities of bar and restaurant owners to allow their patrons, on the property that the owner pays for and owns, to engage in an activity that is, of course, still legal. Any truly valid argument MUST start from this point. No, there is one other point that remains valid: the rights of employees to operate in a safe working environment. Outside of those two issues, the rest of this argument is, pardon the pun, just a smokescreen to allow one side or the other to whine that things are not going their own way, and that they don't like it. (The side primarily doing the whining, of course, flipped once the ban was enacted.) This nonsense about controlling your smoke and impinging on someone else's breathable air is just that: nonsense. The nonsense about being able smoke where you want to is just nonsense. Take a deep breath, let it out, and recognize it as such.

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