Paparazzi problems

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Now we see that Malibu residents have been denied the right to participate in the drafting of a paparazzi ordinance by the secret Pepperdine working group, headed by Dean Ken Starr, and appointed by Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich. Even the members of that Pepperdine committee have said they were laboring under the impression that it is an official city committee, since the mayor has represented it as such.

After being told by the mayor that the committee was not writing proposed ordinances, we now see that the committee indeed produced a menu of five proposed city code changes. It took a certain “nonexpert” in Constitutional Law to make these secret proposed ordinances public through the threat of a public documents act lawsuit.

The Pepperdine law professors say the ordinances would target “opportunistic paparazzi, pursuing commercial gain.” They also sweep up into that broad net any journalists who do their job at school campuses. The ordinances define celebrities as persons “specifically identified and targeted” for a photo. This wonderful new legal term would also, for example, include the young man who was “targeted for a photo” when he kicked the game-winning field goal.

Ordinances 1-4, by the Pepperdine faculty’s own admission, rely on a policeman or a judge to determine if a photo was taken for news, or for paparazzi purposes, without defining either. The Supreme Court has long rejected such “content based” regulations as unconstitutional, and held such overbroad laws as to be impossible to enforce.

The mayor has directly violated California’s open meeting and other First Amendment-based laws. Ken Starr now gets to function as an official City of Malibu fact-finding and law-writing committee. That’s wrong.

The mayor is now pleading for parents upset with paparazzi to come to City Hall to campaign for a new law, despite the fact that there are 45 under-enforced, already-existing laws that address various paparazzi-related issues. The mayor says she didn’t even know that California already has a brand new paparazzi law. She also expressed amazement when Pepperdine showed her the 45 existing laws that could be used against lawbreaker paparazzi.

One thing that they teach in Constitutional Law classes is that if a law infringes on important Constitutional rights, it can only be held valid if other, less-restrictive measures are not available.

Hans Laetz