Free Press sues over littering tickets

Posted: 6:32 PM, May 13, 2016
Updated: 2016-05-13 18:32:34-04

The Detroit Free Press is invoking free speech rights after Orion Township fined the newspaper for violating its littering ordinance.

Township officials ticketed the newspaper for repeated delivery of unrequested copies of Select, a weekly news and shopping guide.

Residents such as Normal Tomkiewicz say the weeklies are often left on driveways and become unsightly nuisances.

"I didn't want it, I didn't pay for it, and it's making a big problem for me," he said.

Tomkiewicz isn't the only one still getting unrequested copies. Orion Township officials say the weeklies litter the neighborhoods - despite requests to the Free Press to stop deliveries to homes who opted out.

Supervisor Chris Barnett said officials told the Free Press they would have to fine the newspaper for violating the township's littering ordinance if problems persisted. So far, they issued two $800 tickets to the newspaper.

Herschel Fink, attorney for the Detroit Free Press, said no matter how annoying its delivery system, Select is first amendment-protected material. He filed a civil rights lawsuit against Orion Township in response.

"We just won't put up with that, it's just outrageous," he said.

Barnett said they're just responding to the slew of complaints from residents who get unwanted copies week after week.

"Most of the time they're out there laying in the rain, getting soggy," Sue Thomas said.

"The courts have been very clear about our right to do this, we told Orion Township that," Fink said.

He added the Free Press is trying to smooth out the kinks in its opt-out system.

Fink said township officials reached out to him and they're now trying to resolve the issue.