Philly Tour Guides Can’t Protest Theoretical Test | Courthouse News Service
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Philly Tour Guides Can’t Protest Theoretical Test

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - Three tour guides cannot pursue a free speech lawsuit against the City of Brotherly Love, which adopted a new policy that would require tour guides to pass a history and geography test before working, the 3rd Circuit ruled Monday.

The Philadelphia mayor had signed a 2008 ordinance that states "no person shall act as a tour guide on any public right-of-way within the Center City Tourist Area unless such person possess a tour guide certificate," which could be obtained by passing the city's written test. Those who violate the ordinance may incur fines or lose their business privilege license.

Michael Tait, Joshua Silver and Ann Boulais had objected to the city's plans to make the certification mandatory, claiming that it would infringe on their First Amendment rights.

U.S. District Judge Jan Dubois first dismissed the suit, finding that it was not ripe since Philadelphia's budget crisis has prevented it from not yet developing the test, and the three-judge federal appeals panel affirmed in a nonprecedential opinion.

"The budget crisis in Philadelphia led to a hiring freeze and budget cuts, and the budget for the City Representative's office in 2010 was projected to be significantly less than that for 2009," Judge Barry wrote for the court, adding that there is nothing in the record about the 2011 budget.

While the city told Dubois that the certification was important to the city and would be enforced if Philadelphia had the means, it told Barry and his colleagues more recently that "it has 'disavowed' enforcing the ordinance 'for the foreseeable future,'" the ruling states.

The ruling states that the case may become ripe when or if the city does actually implement the policy, but that they see no reason why free speech would be chilled before the written test is administered and the policy is officially announced.

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