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OFF BEAT: City settles suit with psychic; unfavorable court ruling in the cards


Consulting a crystal ball before taking action against a psychic reader might have helped the Mississippi city of Hattiesburg avoid a lawsuit settlement.

Hattiesburg agreed to pay $7,500 to settle a federal lawsuit filed by a couple who shuttered their Marie: Psychic Reader business after receiving a city ordinance violation notice, according to recent news reports.

The violation notice stated that fortune telling was illegal in the city.

But the city should have seen trouble coming, considering the ordinance adopted in 1929 likely would have been ruled unconstitutional by a court.

The couple claimed in their lawsuit that city officials violated their right to due process under the Mississippi and U.S. constitutions, and they asked for a ruling that the ordinance amounts to restraint of free speech.

A district judge in November issued a preliminary injunction, restraining the city from enforcing the ordinance. Then in December, the Hattiesburg City Council repealed the ordinance.

The city’s attorney reportedly told local media organizations it was prudent for the city to settle given the likelihood of an unfavorable court finding.