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Brennan v. White County

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

March 6, 2019

DAVID BRENNAN APPELLANT
v.
WHITE COUNTY, ARKANSAS APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE WHITE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 73CV-17-502] HONORABLE CRAIG HANNAH, JUDGE.

          David Brennan, pro se appellant.

          Colin Jorgensen, Association of Arkansas Counties, for appellee.

          BART F. VIRDEN, JUDGE.

         David Brennan challenges the White County Circuit Court's order dismissing his request for declaratory judgment regarding the constitutionality of the White County ordinance prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol and the "local-option" set forth in Arkansas Code Annotated sections 3-8-801 to -811. We affirm.

         I. Relevant Facts

         On September 11, 2017, Brennan filed a complaint in the White County Circuit Court requesting that the court determine the constitutionality of the local-option framework allowing White County citizens to vote to prohibit the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. In his complaint, Brennan asserted that the local-option framework is unconstitutional on its face and violates his substantive due-process rights; namely, his right to contract and association. Brennan, who lives in Searcy, asserted that he wishes to apply for a liquor license and open a package store in his home town, that he wants to consume alcohol at restaurants in Searcy, and that he would like the option to purchase alcohol at stores without having to travel outside his county. Brennan contended that prohibition of the sale of alcohol in White County negatively affects his ability to safely travel along the county highways, and he suffers an "unnecessarily increased risk of being involved in an alcohol-related, fatal crash." Brennan also argued that in dry counties, drug-related crime constitutes a greater threat to the public than in counties where the sale of alcohol is legal.

         White County filed a motion to dismiss Brennan's complaint, arguing that the local-option framework is constitutional as a matter of law. Brennan responded to the motion to dismiss, contending that there is no governmental purpose furthered by the local-option framework. Brennan urged the circuit court to apply the heightened level of scrutiny provided for in the Arkansas Constitution to determine the constitutionality of the statutes. White County countered Brennan's argument by explaining the myriad government interests served by the local-option laws, including the promotion of public health, reduction in crime and related law-enforcement costs, increase in worker productivity, and reduction of health-care costs. White County also asserted that under either the Arkansas Constitution or the federal Constitution, the rational-basis test is the appropriate test for ascertaining the constitutionality of the statutes.

         On April 24, 2018, the circuit court entered an order dismissing Brennan's complaint. The circuit court determined that White County's local-option ordinance and the statutory framework allowing the local option are subject to the rational-basis test under the due-process provisions of both the Arkansas Constitution and the U.S. Constitution and that the local-option framework is constitutional as a matter of law. Brennan timely filed his notice of appeal.

         On appeal, Brennan asserts that both the statutory local-option framework and the local prohibition of alcohol sales in White County violate citizens' "rights of contract and association" and "the right to engage in otherwise legal business activities and relations[.]" He argues that no legitimate state interest is furthered by these laws and that police power may not be used to impose the "majority morality" on those whose conduct does not harm others. Brennan also asserts that the Arkansas Constitution requires a heightened level of scrutiny for the state's use of police power.

         Alternatively, Brennan argues that if this court decides there is a legitimate state interest involved here, the local-option framework is an arbitrary and ineffective way of advancing those interests; thus, the framework is unconstitutional. Lastly, Brennan contends that subsequently enacted legislation fundamentally conflicts with the local-option framework, rendering the local option "the quintessence of irrational." We affirm.

         II. Standard of Review

         This court reviews a circuit court's decision to grant a motion to dismiss pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) by treating the facts alleged in the complaint as true and by viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Archer v. Sigma Tau Gamma Alpha Epsilon, Inc., 2010 Ark. 8, at 4, 362 S.W.3d 303, 306. In viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the facts should be liberally construed in the plaintiff's favor. Id. Our rules require fact pleading, and a complaint must state facts, not mere conclusions, in order to entitle the pleader to relief. Id.

         III. Poi ...


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