The concept of “notice” and how it complies with an individual’s constitutional due process rights is something local governments regularly encounter in their day to day work. Whether it involves a code violation, utility shut-offs, or a zoning hearing, proper timing and form of notice is essential and the failure to comply can result in the government being unable to enforce its ordinances. This issue arose recently in the City of Chicago with respect to its street cleaning ordinance resulting in a successful challenge to the imposition of a ticket and fine.

On July 25, 2016, Todd Kooperman parked his car on a Chicago street.  There was no signage indicating this was in violation of any ordinance. He checked the street for parking restrictions again around 6 p.m., and saw no signs, but at 10 a.m. the following morning a police officer had issued him a ticket for violating the City’s street cleaning ordinance. At some point after midnight the City had posted street cleaning signs on the block. Kooperman paid the fine under protest and contested the ticket.  Both the City’s administrative hearing officer and the circuit court, however, found no requirement in the law that notice be provided a certain amount of time in advance of issuing the ticket.
On appeal, the court in Kooperman v. City of Chicago disagreed, finding the City’s practice unconstitutional. It held that such practice effectively gave the City the right to post a notice and ten minutes later issue a ticket.  Although the ordinance did not provide a time period for providing notice, the court found that in order to comply with an individual’s due process rights, the City must provide at least 24 hours advance notice before citing someone for violating its street cleaning ordinance.
The proper form, content, timing and recipient of notice is often provided by statutory or case law. However, where local government’s are given discretion to establish the type of notice, it is important that they keep in mind the United States Supreme Court’s admonition “that laws give the person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited, so that he may act accordingly. Vague laws may trap the innocent by not providing fair warning.” Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104, 108 (1972).
Post Authored by David Warner, Ancel Glink