(Sept. 28, 2018) Ocean City’s legal battle over banning bare breasts on the beach stretched on last week after U.S. District Court extended a preliminary injunction hearing until Dec. 7.
The issue began in 2016 when Chelsea Eline, formerly Covington, wrote to then-Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby for a legal opinion regarding female bare-chestedness in public places across the state.
Ocean City garnered national media coverage last summer after the leak of a Beach Patrol departmental memo that instructed staff to document, but not take action, if alerted to women sunbathing topless.
In response to that publicity, the Ocean City Council passed an emergency ordinance last June prohibiting females from baring their breasts in public within city limits subject to a fine of up to $1,000.
Earlier this year, civil rights attorney Devon Jacob, representing Eline and four other plaintiffs, began a federal civil suit and in July filed for a preliminary injunction to end the restriction pending the lawsuit’s resolution.
Although U.S. District Court in Baltimore made on Aug. 23 denied the plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction, last Wednesday it granted an extension so the litigants could gather additional expert testimony.
Ocean City Solicitor Guy Ayres said to this point the ordinance has not been successfully challenged.
“At this stage, the court has not granted a preliminary injunction against the resort’s topless ordinance,” he said.
Speaking earlier this week, Ayres said the court has granted Jacob additional time to call in expert witnesses.
“They get more time to brief,” he said.
Under the most recent order, the court granted the plaintiff’s unopposed motion to allow for limited expert discovery. The plaintiff’s deadline for expert disclosure is Oct. 5, with the defendant’s due by Nov. 5.
The hearing date is set for Dec. 7 at 11 a.m.