Originally created 03/10/99

High court considers litter fight



ATLANTA -- Some kinds of litter are better than others, sort of, according to a city attorney who told Georgia's highest court Tuesday that local governments have the power to prohibit publishers from tossing free newspapers into readers' yards.

Free-press advocates disagree.

Sylvania's city commission adopted an ordinance that allows paid-subscription newspapers to be left in driveways, lawns or porches, but free papers cause too much litter, said Hugh T. Hunter, attorney for the city.

People are less likely to leave papers in the yard for days if they have paid to get them, he told the seven justices on the Georgia Supreme Court.

"Paid-for publications have not caused a blight that the free papers have," he said, noting the city is attempting to create an orderly community.

An attorney for Statesboro Publishing Co., which prints and distributes the free weekly Penny-Saver, contends the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees freedom of the press doesn't permit the city's ordinance.

"The council for the city seeks an orderly city, but respectfully, the First Amendment is not orderly," attorney Charles Brown told the justices.

The city is appealing to the Supreme Court to overturn a decision by a Chatham County judge that struck the ordinance as unconstitutional.

Walter Jones is based in Atlanta and can be reached at (404) 589-8424 or mnews@mindspring.com.