Hattiesburg settles suit against fortune-telling ban

By The Associated Press

HATTIESBURG — The City of Hattiesburg has settled a federal lawsuit filed by a couple who closed their business — “Marie: Psychic Reader” — because of a ban that the city later overturned.

Court reporters’ records show the city agreed to pay $7,500 to Tommy and Marie Costello, who sued last August, The Hattiesburg American (http://hatne.ws/Mmh4qx) reported.

They said they closed their business after the city sent them a violation notice in December 2010 saying fortune-telling was illegal in Hattinesburg. They wanted a judge to rule that the ordinance violated their right to free speech.

District Judge Keith Starrett ordered the city in late November to stop enforcing the ordinance, and the council repealed it in early December.

“I think it was a prudent matter on behalf of the city to go ahead and settle the case,” said Charles Lawrence, the city’s attorney.

He said he found that ordinance had been passed in 1929, and the court likely would have found it unconstitutional.

“Times have changed since ’29, opinions have changed and laws have changed,” Lawrence said.