APX law-student’s real-life moot court?

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08/06/2010

It’s a city council, not the Supreme Court, but this news story made me think about way back when I was in my 20s and my lawyer-to-be friends (now all well established attorneys, or having bagged the law years ago are now off doing something else exciting) were doing those moot court exercises in law school.

I saw this story online this morning, it’s from an Andalusia, Alabama newspaper, and it’s about an APX Alarm employee, a law student named Jay Sallan, who went to a local city council meeting to challenge the constitutionality of that city’s ordinance which bans door-to-door sales. The ordinance dates back to 1968.

According to the story, the employee came to the meeting, armed with court decisions which he said show that the town may restrict door-knocking, but it may not ban the practice outright.

Sallan asked the council to strike the ordinance and, in the meantime, he asked the council to grant an exception to APX to let them knock doors until a new ordinance could be approved.

The mayor of the town said the ordinance had not been reviewed in many years, if ever, but promised to review it in a timely manner. It’s unclear from the story if APX was granted the exception the employee asked for.

From the story:

[Mayor] Johnson assured Sallan that the council will review the ordinance and bring the local laws in line with court rulings.

“And we’ll do it in a timely manner,” he said.

Johnson explained to the council that there are a number of things they can do in crafting a new ordinance to limit door-to-door solicitation.

“You’ve heard of a do not call list, we can craft our ordinance with a do not knock list,” Johnson said.

I’m working on a story called “Door-knocking done right” for a special report that will be in our October issue. When I was visiting APX headquarters earlier this month, I learned about the very extensive licensing and permitting processes the company goes through to get permission to knock doors in municipalities throughout the country. It’s a complicated and time-consuming process for sure.

APX’s VP of operations Lindsay Grauling and her team spend hundreds of hours researching local ordinances and processes. Sometimes, her staff members told me, you’ll get two different answers from people in the same municipal office. It can be a challenge to even find out what the local rules are.

It may be a hassle, but it’s gotta be done. It’s only right that any business should abide by the local ordinances, however complicated or arcane they may be. And they can challenge them if they want too.

Companies need to make sure they’re abiding by the ordinances before they start knocking—instead of after they get nabbed breaking the local laws—something that seems to so often be the case with door-knockers.

If the local community severely limits door-knocking, that’s something door-knockers need to respect. That’s door knocking done right.

How ever this particular ordinance-challenge turns out, it seems to me that this APX employee did his homework and is going about the process in the right way. My guess is he’ll make a good attorney too.