Supreme Court to hear case against Senoia ordinance

by Sarah Fay Campbell

A Senoia resident and the Senoia city government will face off before the Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The case of Rehman V. Belisle, mayor et al is set for oral arguments as the last case of the afternoon session.

Don Rehman, a frequent commenter at city council meetings and current candidate for mayor, sued the city over the wording of an ordinance regarding the misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

Misdemeanor possession would typically be heard in a state court - adding the local ordinance allows it to be heard in city court and allows the city to receive fines and fees.

But the wording of the ordinance is problematic and confusing - and possibly sexist, according to Rehman.

It states: 'It shall be unlawful for any person to have in his possession, less than an ounce of marijuana.'

Rehman asked the council to change the wording of the ordinance so it wouldn't appear to require all males to carry at least one ounce of marijuana while in the city, but the council did not take any action to change the ordinance.

He sued in Coweta Superior Court, asking to have the ordinance declared 'ill conceived, confusing, detrimental and unconstitutional.'

Rehman is acting as his own attorney.

Coweta Superior Court Judge Dennis Blackmon dismissed the case on May 23. The local judge expressed disinterest in the suit, calling it 'the most ridiculous thing I have ever had in this court, ever.'

'You have wasted this court's time. You have wasted all these people's time,' Blackmon said at the May 23 hearing. 'I do not know what possessed you to come into this court with something this ridiculous.'

Rehman appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court and his case was accepted.

On Sept. 5, Blackmon granted Senoia's request that Rehman be required to pay the city's legal fees, totaling $7,035.59. However, if the Supreme Court finds in Rehman's favor, he will not have to pay the fees.

When asked in September why the city did not change the wording of the ordinance to make it more clear, City Attorney Drew Whalen replied that 'the mayor and council is the city's legislative body and have very strong legislative discretion. If they prefer not to take action on an ordinance, it's their prerogative.'

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