A Florida appeals court has affirmed the dismissal of a claim brought by a plaintiff, who alleged that his constitutional rights were violated by two municipal golf courses that enforced a rule that its patrons could only walk the course on certain days of the week, and were required to rent a golf cart on the other days.
Daniel E. Zurla, a pro se litigant, had argued before the trial court that not only was his constitutional rights violated, but that he was also entitled to injunctive relief and damages.
The appeals court was equally unmoved, noting that his complaint “fails to specifically identify a liberty interest protected by the United States Constitution. See Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 138 L. Ed. 2d 772, 117 S. Ct. 2258, 117 S. Ct. 2302 (1997); see also Khan v. Gallitano, 180 F.3d 829 (U.S. 7th Cir. 1999); Coyne v. City of Somerville, 972 F.2d 440 (U.S. 1st Cir. 1992).”
In short, the court did not believe that walking a golf course could be identified as a “fundamental right.”
“The sincerity of Plaintiff’s desire to walk while golfing notwithstanding, the Court simply cannot find a constitutional right to do so,” the judges wrote.
The appeals court also disputed the plaintiff’s argument that the courses’ rules, or regulations, could be deemed “arbitrary and capricious”
“As the United States Supreme Court has observed, golf cart use is ubiquitous on golf courses today, and the use of carts may speed play and enhance revenue. See PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin, 532 U.S. 661, 685, 149 L. Ed. 2d 904, 121 S. Ct. 1879 (2001) [Americans with Disabilities Act required that disabled professional golfer be permitted to use golf cart, despite walking requirement that applied to professional association’s tournaments].
“Either objective – speeding play or increasing revenue – is sufficient for the golf cart requirement to survive the claim of arbitrariness and capriciousness in the instant case. This is particularly true given the long-standing law in Florida that ‘when a municipality operates in its propriety capacity, it is governed by the same law and may exercise the same rights as a private corporation engaged in a similar undertaking.’ City of Winter Park v. Montesi, 448 So. 2d 1242, 1245 (Fla. 5th DCA), rev. denied 456 So. 2d 1182 (Fla. 1984) (emphasis added) (citing Hamler v. City of Jacksonville, 97 Fla. 807, 122 So. 220 (1929); Edris v. Sebring Utilities Comm’n, 237 So. 2d 585 (Fla. 2d DCA), cert. denied 240 So. 2d 643 (Fla. 1970)).”
In closing, the appeals court observed “that our founding fathers must be wondering if anyone today even reads the Constitution, much less understands it.”
Zurla v. City of Daytona Beach and City of Port Orange, Ct. App. Fl. 5th D.,
Case No. 5D03-3612, 5/28/04
Attorneys of Record: (for defendants) Robert G. Brown, City Attorney, and Benjamin S. Gross, Assistant City Attorney, of Office of City Attorney for Daytona Beach and Terrence R. Perkins and Robert F. Stepniak of Smith, Hood, Perkins, Loucks & Stout, P.A., Daytona Beach.