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Judge refuses to reconsider tour guide licensing decision

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A U.S. district court judge has denied the city of Charleston’s motion to reconsider the August decision to strike down the city’s mandatory licensing for tour guides.

Charleston filed a motion in September in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina asking the court to reconsider its decision on the basis that the judgment was flawed. The city argued that a voluntary licensing program would not be at least as effective as the mandatory license and that the court did not find that the city’s licensing program imposed a significant burden on speech.

Tommy Doyle, general manager of Palmetto Carriage Works, said after the original ruling that his drivers would continue to be licensed or certified. "Whatever the city offers, my drivers are going to have to maintain that." (Photo/File)The city also asked the court, “for the sake of judicial economy,” to conclude that the city enacted its licensing ordinance for a content-neutral purpose.

“If this case is appealed, it could be years before it is remanded back for further proceedings,” the city said in its filing.

Judge David Norton, however, found that the city’s motion did not meet the high bar required for him to reconsider his decision.

“Reconsideration of a final judgment is an extraordinary remedy,” he wrote in his order (.pdf), issued Monday.

Norton wrote that the city did not provide newly discovered evidence, nor did it uncover any “manifest errors of law.”

“The city’s motion is nothing more than a request that this court change its mind, which this court declines to do,” Norton said.

After the August ruling, Charleston put in place a voluntary licensing program similar to its previous mandatory program, allowing tour guides to continue receiving certification from the city. Several tour guide companies have said they will still require employees to be certified.

Tommy Doyle, general manager of Palmetto Carriage Works, said in September, “Whatever the city offers, my drivers are going to have to maintain that, be it a certification or a license, whatever it is, and I won’t hire anybody without that. ... We provide a great service, and part of the success of my business and that service is the opportunity for me to have licensed or certified tour guides to give those tours.”

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