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Town of Gorham v. Papi

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

March 27, 2015

TOWN OF GORHAM, Petitioner
v.
JOHN PAPI, Respondent

DECISION AND ORDER

Joyce A. Wheeler, Justice

BEFORE THE COURT

This matter comes before the court to enforce the Town's citation of John Papi ("Papi") with violating the Solid Waste Flow Control Ordinance ("Ordinance")- The Ordinance requires an individual or business to obtain an annual license from the Town before collecting, recycling, or hauling any solid waste generated within the boundaries of the Town. The license applicant must provide certain specified information, including proof of liability insurance, and must also pay an annual license fee. The penalty for violating the Ordinance is a $3, 000 fine for the first violation and a $5, 000 fine for any subsequent violations, plus costs and attorney's fees incurred in enforcing the Ordinance. Papi contends that the Town selectively enforces the Ordinance against him.

BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On January 28, 2014, Gorham Police Sgt. Dan Young cited Papi for violating the Ordinance when Papi was caught in the process of loading solid waste into his truck from a dumpster at Cook's Hardware Store in Gorham. At the time he was cited by Gorham Police Sgt. Young, Papi was not licensed under the Ordinance.

This is not the first time that Papi violated the Ordinance by hauling without a license. See Town of Gorham v John Papi, CV-98-69. On October 16, 1998, the Superior Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Town, ordering Papi to pay a $3, 000 fine plus $1, 544.68 in attorney's fees, and enjoining him from hauling any solid waste generated in the Town without obtaining the required license. Papi did not pay the judgment entered in 1998. In this action, the Town asks the court to order payment of that judgment together with post-judgment interest, as part of the remedy in this case.

There is no factual dispute that Papi was collecting municipal solid waste in the Town without a license. Rather, Papi argues that he is the victim of selective enforcement, in violation of his right to equal protection under the law.

DISCUSSION

1. Selective Prosecution/Enforcement

Under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, the state cannot "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." U.S. Const, amend. XIV, § 1. The Maine Constitution provides the same protections. Bangs v. Town of Wells, 2000 ME 186, <ff 9 n.4, 760 A.2d 632 (citing both federal and state constitutional provisions).

However,

There is no right under the Constitution to have a law go unenforced against you, even if you are the first person against whom it is enforced, and even if you think (or can prove) you are not as culpable as some others who have gone unpunished. The law does not need to be enforced everywhere to be legitimately enforced somewhere ....

Futernick v. Sumpter Twp,, 78 F.3d 1051, 1056 (6th Cir. 1996) (citing Wayte v. United States, 470 U.S. 598, 607 (1985)); cf. Williamson v. Lee Optical Co., 348 U.S. 483, 487-88 (1955) (noting that a "law need not be in every respect logically consistent with its aims to be constitutional. It is enough that there is an evil at hand for correction, and that it might be thought that the particular legislative measure was a rational way to correct it").

To make out a defense of selective prosecution or enforcement, a defendant must establish ...


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