The Ku Klux Klan's legal bid to participate to participate in Georgia's "Adopt-A-Highway" program may proceed to trial, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
In a unanimous opinion, the state high court ruled against the Department of Transportation's attempt to scuttle the case, saying the agency failed to follow correct procedure in filing its appeal. In fact, the Supreme Court said it lacked jurisdiction to consider the state's appeal.
For several years, the white supremacist group has been trying to get its name on "Adopt-A-Highway" road signs on a one-mile stretch of Ga. 515 in Union County near the North Carolina state line. The KKK filed suit against the state Department of Transportation over the issue in 2012.
The suit was filed a few months after the DOT rejected the "Adopt-A-Highway" request from April Chambers and Harley Hanson, members of the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. In a letter, the state said it was denying the application based on the KKK's "long-rooted history of civil disturbance" and the "potential for social unrest."
Georgia's "Adopt-A-Highway" program was created in 1989 and is administered by the DOT. Its purpose is to enlist volunteers to help remove litter from roadsides. Volunteers accepted into the program adopt at least a one-mile stretch of highway and agree to clean up both sides of the road at least four times a year over a two-year period. In return, the state erects signs bearing the party's name on both sides of the highway.
In the KKK's lawsuit, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn LaGrua ruled that rationale "represents an unconstitutional infringement on an applicant's right of free speech. The judge further prohibited the DOT from "denying applications to the [program] for public concern related to a group's history of civil disturbance."
The state had appealed that ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court. The case now returns to LaGrua's court headed to trial.
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