Bookseller Asks Why He Needs a License
ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) - A bookseller who expects to lose his store sued a town in Upstate New York, claiming it imposes "onerous requirements" on booksellers who want to sell in the open air - but not on people who sell newspapers.
Andrew Curtis sued the City of Kingston, its mayor and police chief, in Federal Court.
Kingston, pop., 24,000, is in Ulster County, north of Poughkeepsie.
Curtis, 61, says he has sold books for most of his adult life, but will be forced to close his shop due to financial circumstances. "He therefore wishes to sell books
on the streets and sidewalks of Kingston, one of the main population centers in Ulster County," he says in the complaint.
Kingston's peddling ordinance, however, requires a license, for which he must "provide extensive personal details, fingerprints, license fees, a surety bond, and proof of a liability insurance policy." Curtis claims that if he does get a license, it will cost him $150 a year, and he will have to buy a minimum of $100,000 in liability insurance.
He says such a requirement for someone who wishes to sell "expressive materials" is unconstitutional.
Newspaper and magazine vendors are exempt from the peddling law, Curtis says. So are milkmen, farmers who sell their crops, and charitable solicitors.
"At a minimum, plaintiffs are similarly situated to those who peddle newspapers and
Periodicals," Curtis claims.
"But the regulations subject peddlers of books to onerous requirements not imposed
on peddlers of newspapers and periodicals."
Curtis' co-plaintiff is his business, Get Real Books.
He claims that when he inquired about getting a license, the police detective in charge of peddling licenses "asked him specifically about the content of the books he wanted to sell," and told him he could not operate "in front of any businesses," including on the far side of a parking lot from businesses in a strip mall.
Curtis claims the city ordinance violates the First and 14th Amendments and the New York Constitution. He seeks declaratory judgment that the peddling ordinance is unconstitutional as it applies to vendors of expressive materials, and he wants it enjoined.
He is represented by Daniel Mullkoff, with Cuti, Hecker & Wang, of New York City.