In the city of New Orleans, books are the one item a person can give away or even sell on public property without obtaining permission, or purchasing any sort of permit.
In 2001, then newly transplanted New York bookseller, Joshua Wexler, wanted to sell his wares on the streets of his new home, New Orleans. So Wexler headed to City Hall to obtain the proper permits. “It turned into this weeks-long Kafka-esque journey, getting sent from one to department to the next,” says Wexler. “The answer was always either ‘not my department,’ or just ‘no.’”
Turned out the City of New Orleans did not provide permits for anyone to sell books. “They had a list things you could specifically get permits for,” recalls Wexler. “Pencils, t-shirts, vegetables, beads, even razorblades were on there…they just didn’t have books on the list of things you could get a permit for.”
With no permit available, city officials told Wexler he was simply not allowed to sell books on the street. “Elizabeth Pugh, Attorney for the city, told me, ‘If you want more, hire a lawyer,’” claims Wexler.
So, in 2003, Wexler and a pro-bono lawyer from the Institute for Justice, sued the City of New Orleans. The judge presideing over his case finally ruled that books are protected speech under the First Amendment, and that Wexler didn’t need anyone’s permission to practice that form of free speech. “[Selling books on the street in New Orleans] is now considered the same as standing on the sidewalk making a political speech,” says Wexler. CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article at NoDef…