S.C. Supreme Court requests more information in cruise case

By Matt Tomsic
Published June 12, 2013

The state Supreme Court has asked attorneys to file briefs on two outstanding issues after dismissing three claims in a lawsuit filed against Carnival Cruise Lines over its Lowcountry operations.

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the lawsuit against Carnival Cruise Lines in June 2011 on behalf of the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association, the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, the Coastal Conservation League and the Preservation Society of Charleston. The city of Charleston and S.C. State Ports Authority also joined the lawsuit as defendants.

The lawsuit argues Carnival is breaking local zoning, nuisance and environmental permitting laws. The legal complaint has several counts and seeks to require Carnival to go through the processes required of other Charleston tourism businesses.

The state’s highest court took jurisdiction over the case in January 2012 and appointed Judge Clifford Newman as special referee in the case. The court asked Newman to hear arguments for preliminary motions by the parties and issue a recommendation on those motions, which he did in January, recommending the S.C. Supreme Court should dismiss a handful of city ordinance and environmental claims but keep the nuisance claims.

On June 5, the court acted on Newman’s recommendation, dismissing three claims regarding the city of Charleston’s noise ordinance; the city’s sign ordinance; and the S.C. Pollution Control Act. The court didn’t dismiss the lawsuit’s remaining claims.

The court also asked the parties to file briefs on issues of standing and the preemption of federal or state law on municipal zoning ordinances before it ruled on the remaining claims.

The briefs are due in early July.

“We are grateful to the Supreme Court for taking this important case in its original jurisdiction,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the ports authority, in a news release. “And we are optimistic that this action will lead to an expeditious resolution to the remainder of the lawsuit.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center was also happy with the decision.

“We are pleased that our seven strongest claims remain and look forward to showing that Carnival cannot ignore the rules every other business plays by in making Charleston a great city,” said Blan Holman, an attorney with the law center, in a news release. “We look forward to continuing to act on behalf of citizens to ensure that Carnival follows local laws that protect the city’s healthy environment, treasured historic assets and booming tourism industry — an industry that depends on balancing Charleston’s unique historic charm with sensible cruise ship operations.”

Previous coverage

Judge issues report on Carnival lawsuit
Hearing set in Carnival Cruise lawsuit
S.C. Supreme Court takes jurisdiction of Carnival Cruise Lines lawsuit
Groups sue Carnival over Charleston operations

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