Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, First Division
MELISSA V. BENNETT, and KOACH BARUCH FRAZIER F/K/A REBECCA L. FRAZIER, Appellants,
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI, and PETER JAY KRANE, Respondents.
from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Honorable Gloria
S. ODENWALD JUDGE.
V. Bennett and Koach Baruch Frazier (collectively
"Appellants") appeal from the trial court's
dismissal of their complaint, which alleged that St. Louis
County Ordinance Section 701.110 (the
"Ordinance") was unconstitutionally vague and
overbroad. The Ordinance makes it unlawful to in any manner
interfere or obstruct a police officer or other County
employee in the performance of his or her official duties.
raise three points on appeal, each of which implicates the
protections of freedom of speech guaranteed under the United
States and Missouri Constitutions. Point One challenges the
constitutionality of the Ordinance as proscribing a
substantial amount of constitutionally protected speech.
Point Two contends that the Ordinance is unconstitutionally
vague because it contains multiple undefined terms and
phrases, and permits arbitrary and discriminatory
enforcement. In Point Three, Appellants claim that the
Ordinance is overbroad because its unclear language outlaws a
substantial amount of constitutionally protected First
Amendment speech. We conclude that the Ordinance is neither
unconstitutionally overbroad nor unconstitutionally vague
under both the First Amendment to the United States
Constitution and Article I of the Missouri Constitution.
Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
and Procedural History
Louis County police officers arrested Appellants for
violating the Ordinance while they were participating in an
anti-police-brutality protest outside the Ferguson Municipal
Police Department. The Ordinance makes it "unlawful for
any person to interfere in any manner with a police officer
or other employee of the County in the performance of his
official duties or to obstruct him in any maimer whatsoever
while performing any duty."
Louis County charged Appellants with violating the Ordinance.
Consequently, Appellants filed a complaint with the trial
court alleging that the Ordinance was unconstitutionally
vague and overbroad on its face, and later moved for a
judgment on the pleadings. Appellants argued that the
Ordinance was unduly vague in several respects. First,
Appellants maintained the Ordinance used the terms
"obstruct, " "interfere, " and "in
any manner" to prohibit unlawful conduct toward a police
officer without defining those terms, and without restricting
those terms to physical conduct or limiting the
Ordinance's application to a particular time or place.
Appellants also challenged the Ordinance for lacking a
scienter requirement. Further, Appellants reasoned that the
Ordinance was substantially overbroad in its use of the terms
"obstruct, " "interfere, " and "in
any manner, " which effectively proscribed a substantial
amount of protected free speech activity, including comments
that may annoy, interrupt, or protest a police officer's
activities. The trial court granted judgment in favor of St.
Louis County, holding that the Ordinance is not facially
unconstitutional. Appellants now appeal.
raise three points on appeal. In Point One, Appellants argue
that the plain meaning of the Ordinance encompasses conduct
protected by the First Amendment of the United States
Constitution. In Point Two, Appellants contend that the
Ordinance is unconstitutionally vague because it fails to
provide fair notice of its application and encourages
arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. In Point Three,
Appellants claim that the Ordinance is overbroad and in
violation of the First Amendment and Article I, Section 8 of
the Missouri Constitution, because it outlaws vast amounts of
challenge the constitutionality of a municipal ordinance.
Although not raised by the parties, we have a duty to examine
our jurisdiction sua sponte. Walker v. Brownel, 375
S.W.3d 259, 261 (Mo. App. E.D. 2012). If we lack jurisdiction
to entertain the appeal, we must dismiss. Id.
Missouri Supreme Court has exclusive appellate jurisdiction
in cases involving the validity of a state statute or a
provision of the constitution of this state. Mo. Const. Art.
V, § 3. However, the Supreme Court has determined that
"[c]laims that municipal ordinances are constitutionally
invalid are not within the exclusive appellate jurisdiction
of this Court." Alumax Foils, Inc. v. City of St.
Louis, 939 S.W.2d 907, 912 (Mo. banc 1997). "Under
our constitutional scheme,  the court of appeals has the
jurisdiction initially to consider such issues on
appeal." Id. Thus, we have jurisdiction over
the validity and constitutionality of the Ordinance. See
Damon v. City of Kansas City, 419 S.W.3d 162, 174-75
(Mo. App. W.D. 2013).
review the constitutionality of ordinances de novo. City
of Sullivan v. Sites, 329 S.W.3d 691, 693 (Mo. banc
2010); St. Louis Ass'n of Realtors v. City of
Ferguson, 499 S.W.3d 395, 398 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016).
Ordinances are presumed valid and lawful. Coop. Home
Care, Inc. v. City of St. Louis, 514 S.W.3d 571, 578
(Mo. banc 2017). Further, «[t]he party challenging the
validity of the ordinance carries the burden of proving the
municipality exceeded its constitutional or statutory
dispute the constitutionality of the Ordinance. The Ordinance
states as follows:
It is unlawful for any person to interfere in any manner with
a police officer or other employee of the County in the
performance of his official duties or to obstruct him in any
manner whatsoever while performing any duty.
Appellants contend that the Ordinance is facially
unconstitutional as written, and do not seek constitutional
review under an "as applied" standard. A facial
challenge to the constitutionality of the Ordinance is
"the most difficult challenge to mount successfully,
since [Appellants] must establish that no set of
circumstances exists under which the [Ordinance] would be
valid." United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739,
745 (1987). An as-applied challenge, conversely, would
require Appellants to argue that the Ordinance was
unconstitutionally applied to their individual circumstances.
See, e.g., Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar
Ass'n, 436 U.S. 447, 462-63, 462 n.20 (1978).
Appellants chose to make a facial challenge and not an
as-applied challenge. Thus, we only review the facial
constitutionality challenges to the Ordinance and need not
discuss the specific facts of Appellants' arrests. See
Salerno, 481 U.S. at 745 n.3.
Points One and Three: Overbreadth
Point One, Appellants argue that the plain meaning of the
Ordinance encompasses a substantial amount of
constitutionally protected speech. Further, in Point Three,
Appellants similarly contend that the plain meaning of the
Ordinance, as written, prohibits a substantial amount of
constitutionally protected content, and is therefore
unconstitutionally overbroad. Because Appellant's Points
One and Three both address overbreadth, we combine these
points in our discussion below.
The Overbreadth Doctrine Standard
overbreadth doctrine, born in First Amendment jurisprudence
of the United States Supreme Court, New York v.
Ferber, 458 U.S. 747, 768 (1982), recognizes that
"it is better to invalidate laws that potentially could
be construed to punish protected speech, even if those laws
might be constitutionally applied, rather than to let such a
law stand and chill protected speech." State v.
Jeffrey, 400 S.W.3d 303, 308 (Mo. banc 2013). The
overbreadth doctrine is limited to the First Amendment
context. Id. When conduct is at issue, "the
overbreadth doctrine has a[n even] more limited
application." Id. at 311 (internal citations
well recognized that courts will not invalidate an ordinance
on its face "merely because it is possible to conceive
of a single impermissible application." City of
Houston v. Hill, 482 U.S. 451, 458 (1987) quoting
Broadrick v. Oklahoma, 413 U.S. 601, 630 (1973)
(Brennan, J., dissenting)). Instead, "in a facial
challenge to the overbreadth and vagueness of a law, a
court's first task is to determine whether the enactment
reaches a substantial amount of constitutionally protected
conduct." Hoffman Estates v. Flipside, Hoffman
Estates, Inc., 455 U.S. 489, 494 (1982). Ordinances
"that make unlawful a substantial amount of
constitutionally protected conduct may be held facially
invalid even if they also have legitimate application."
Hill, 482 U.S. at 459 (citing Kolender v.
Lawson, 461 U.S. 352, 359 n.8 (1983)). However,
"[i]f the [ordinance] may fairly be construed in a
manner which limits its application to a 'core' of
constitutionally unprotected expression, it may be upheld
against the charge that it is overly broad." State
v. Carpenter. 736 S.W.2d 406, 408 (Mo. banc 1987)
(Blackmar, J., dissenting) (cited with approval in State
v, Moore, 90 S.W.3d 64, 67 (Mo. banc 2002)). "The
mere possibility of erroneous application of the statute does
not amount 'to the irreparable injury necessary to
justify a disruption of orderly state proceedings.'"
Cameron v. Johnson, 390 U.S. 611, 621 (1968)
(quoting Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U.S. 479, 485
Overbreadth Analysis of Similar Laws
United States Supreme Court Precedent: Cameron and
and Respondents primarily rely on two United States Supreme
Court cases to frame the issue regarding the facial
constitutionality of the Ordinance. Although the laws
discussed in Cameron and Hill are
distinguishable, the analysis of both provide a cohesive
framework-when coupled with the subsequent court cases-for
evaluating the constitutionality of the Ordinance.
1968, the United States Supreme Court reviewed the
constitutionality of a Mississippi anti-picketing law.
Cameron, 390 U.S. at 612. The statute provided, in
It shall be unlawful for any person, singly or in concert
with others, to engage in picketing or mass demonstrations in
such a maimer as to obstruct or unreasonably interfere with
free ingress or egress to and from any public premises, State
property, county or municipal courthouses, ... or other
public buildings or property owned by the State of
Mississippi, ... or so as to obstruct or unreasonably