State News

October 23, 2012

State wants judge to ax KKK suit over litter program

ATLANTA — A judge should dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Ku Klux Klan group that was turned down for participation in a highway cleanup program, the state of Georgia argued Monday.

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation sued last month on behalf of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK in Union County, saying the state violated the group’s right to free speech. The state on Monday filed its response and supporting brief in Fulton County Superior Court.

The lawsuit, which names the state and various state agencies and officials, asks the court to force the state to issue an Adopt-a-Highway permit to the KKK; issue a permanent injunction preventing the state from denying the KKK such a permit; and declare that the state wrongfully denied the group’s application and violated due process.  

The response argues that claims against state agencies and officials are generally barred in state courts by sovereign immunity. Even if that were not the case, the suit should be dismissed because the KKK didn’t file the lawsuit in time, lacks standing to request an injunction and didn’t take advantage of other existing legal avenues for appeal, the state argues.

The state argues that the KKK should have challenged the denial of the application within 30 days based on a 1981 Georgia Supreme Court opinion.

The state also argues that an injunction is meant to prevent a future action, which means the KKK can’t pursue an injunction to reverse a past action — in this case the denial of the application.

Finally, the KKK could have appealed the state Department of Transportation’s denial of the application to the Office of State Administrative Hearings under the Administrative Procedure Act. That remedy must be pursued before a lawsuit is filed, the state argues.

The Klan group applied in May to the state’s “Adopt-A-Highway” program, seeking to clean up part of Route 515 in the Appalachian Mountains. The state program enlists civic groups, companies and other volunteers to pick up trash. The groups are recognized with signs along the roads they adopt.  

Transportation Department officials denied the group’s application in June after meeting with lawyers from the state Attorney General’s Office and consulting with Gov. Nathan Deal. The agency said at the time that the program is aimed at “civic-minded organizations in good standing.”  

“Promoting an organization with a history of inciting civil disturbance and social unrest would present a grave concern to the department. Issuing this permit would have the potential to negatively impact the quality of life, commerce and economic development of Union County and all of Georgia,” transportation officials said in a statement in June.  

The statement asserted that motorists who drive past signs promoting the KKK or who see members picking up trash could be distracted — creating a safety issue — and that the section of highway the group wanted to adopt is ineligible because of its 55 mph speed limit.  

Similar groups in other states have won legal battles after initially being turned down for highway cleanup programs.  

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 rejected Missouri’s attempt to turn down a controversial group’s application, saying membership in the program cannot be denied because of a group’s political beliefs. In Kentucky, transportation officials who feared an unsuccessful legal battle accepted a white-separatist group’s contract to participate in the state’s highway cleanup program.


Text Only
State News
  • One charged in death of Dalton woman, another sought

    A Dalton woman found dead in Calhoun earlier this month is believed to have died of a drug overdose after two Calhoun residents abandoned her in a car behind the VFW on East Line Street, Lt. Tony Pyle with the Calhoun Police Department said Wednesday afternoon.

    June 18, 2014

  • Guard shot at FedEx center to undergo 14th surgery

    A security guard critically wounded when a gunman went on a rampage at a FedEx facility is scheduled to undergo his 14th operation Tuesday.

    May 27, 2014

  • Arson ruled out as cause of chemical plant fire

    Police say investigators have been able to rule out arson or foul play as the cause of a massive fire at a chemical plant outside Atlanta that spewed black smoke and flames visible for miles.

    May 27, 2014

  • Teen tied to shopping cart drowns in lake

    Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials say a teen has died after being tied to a shopping cart and pushed into Lake Allatoona.

    May 25, 2014

  • Underground tattoo artists frustrate officials

    The work of tattoo artists whose living rooms double as body art studios might come cheap, but experts say the unsterile -- and illegal -- work environments could leave clients in pain long after the initial sting of the needle subsides.

    May 25, 2014

  • No runoff lets Republicans focus on Rep. Barrow

    While Georgia Republicans have to wait until July to settle runoff races for the U.S. Senate and three open House seats, one of the biggest GOP victories in the primary elections last week went to Augusta businessman Rick W. Allen.

    May 25, 2014

  • Audit probes juvenile justice turnover rate

    A state audit cites low pay, long hours and management concerns as reasons for a relatively high turnover rate at the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice.

    May 25, 2014

  • Atlanta schools ex-tech director to be sentenced

    After his relationship with the superintendent of Atlanta’s school system soured, a former technology director for the district set up a kickback scheme to pad his pockets before he left his job, according to court documents.

    May 24, 2014

  • Georgia veteran, 92, honored at surprise ceremony

    Family and friends surprised a 92-year-old World War II veteran from Georgia on Memorial Day by honoring him and presenting him with the World War II Victory Medal.

    May 24, 2014

  • Police: Massive chemical plant fire extinguished

    Authorities say a massive fire at a chemical plant outside Atlanta that spewed black smoke and flames visible for miles has been extinguished.

    May 24, 2014