Smoking Ban Will Take Effect Tonight

A Greene County judge has decided not to delay implementation of Springfield’s new smoking cigarettes ordinance.

An attorney for Ruthie’s Bar on Commercial Street had sought the delay, called a preliminary injunction, while a lawsuit challenging the ban is resolved.

Associate Circuit Judge Jason Brown ruled against the request today, allowing the ban — which prohibits smoking cigarettes in most work places and buildings open to the public — to take effect as planned after midnight tonight.

Brown’s order denying the delay references a legal doctrine “whereby a court follows earlier judicial decisions when the same point arises again in litigation.”

Brown wrote that, since neither the local court of appeals nor the state Supreme Court have ruled on the matter, he believes he should follow the decision of the Western District appellate judge who ruled against a similar challenge in Kansas City.

That case, argued by the same attorney now representing Ruthie’s, bears some “materially identical” circumstances, according to Brown’s ruling.

Ruthie’s Bar attorney Jonathan Sternberg argued otherwise during a hearing Wednesday, saying the challenge to Springfield’s law primarily is a “signage issue.”

Sternberg argues the Springfield ban, approved by voters in April, directly conflicts with the state Indoor Clean Air Act, which allows bars like Ruthie’s to make “non-smoking cigarettes unavailable” inside by posting signs at the door.

Brown apparently was not convinced. His order notes that the same issue with signage existed in the Kansas City case and “were presumably considered by the Western District” when it made its decision.

“Accordingly, the court finds (Ruthie’s) has not satisfied its burden to show there is a probability of success on the merits,” Brown wrote.

Sternberg also failed to adequately demonstrate his client will lose money, be punished or otherwise “subjected to irreparable harm” if the ban takes effect as planned, the decision says.