The Look in Brief

Tennessee Supreme Court revives home business lawsuit

By: - August 18, 2022 8:56 pm
Home studio owner Lij Shaw, 52, has been fighting over the home studio business since 2015. "People can't play together over the internet, it's just not possible." ((Photograph by John Partipilo ©2020

Home studio owner Lij Shaw, 52, has been fighting over the home studio business since 2015. “People can’t play together over the internet, it’s just not possible.” (Photograph by John Partipilo ©2020)

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Thursday revived a lawsuit by Nashville music producer Lij Shaw and beauty salon owner Patricia Raynor challenging Metro Council’s restrictions on their home-based businesses.

A lower court had tossed the suit after city leaders tweaked an ordinance that had effectively shut down Shaw’s home-based recording studio and Raynor’s in-home salon by banning client visits to now allow six client visits before 7 p.m. daily. In so doing, the court sided with the city and ruled that the lawsuit was now “moot,” because Metro Council had changed the ordinance.

The state’s high court disagreed in a ruling made public Thursday and authored by Justice Holly Kirby.

Kirby noted in the opinion that the in-home businesses of Shaw and Raynor — and all similar home businesses — are still impacted by the ordinance, change or not, and further legal review is necessary to determine if the new ordinance passes legal and constitutional muster.

“As to the home (business) owners’ contention that the six-client ordinance is only an ‘insignificant’ change (from the original ordinance banning clients), we cannot go that far,” Kirby wrote. “On the other hand, we cannot agree with Metro’s position that we should consider only whether the case can serve as a means of providing judicial relief under the original ordinance and blind ourselves to any claims the home (business) owners may have under the new ordinance.

“It may turn out that the (new) six-client ordinance has the same alleged legal flaw as the client prohibition, that it altered the law in a way that presents significantly different issues, or that it simply has no adverse effect on the home (business) owners,” Kirby wrote. “At this juncture, the record on appeal does not contain all of the information needed to determine whether the case can still be a means of providing some sort of judicial relief to the home (business) owners.”

Shaw and Raynor sued Metro Council in 2017 after the city banned select home businesses, including recording studios, barber and beauty shops, tutoring and fitness instruction and small artisan manufacturing, from having customers onsite. The ordinance was pushed by homeowners’ associations and didn’t apply to all home-based businesses, including daycares.

After the pair sued, Metro essentially repealed the ordinance at the heart of the lawsuit and then argued the legal action was now pointless. Metro then permanently replaced it with a new ordinance that allowed six visitors daily during the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. It, too, does not apply to all home-based businesses.

With the high court’s ruling, the lawsuit will now return to Davidson County Chancellor Anne Martin, who will first have to decide if the lawsuit should go forward as a challenge to the new ordinance or die on the legal vine of the repealed original ordinance.

The new ordinance will remain in effect as the litigation continues.

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Jamie Satterfield
Jamie Satterfield

Jamie Satterfield is an investigative journalist with more than 33 years of experience, specializing in legal affairs, policing, public corruption, environmental crime and civil rights violations. Her journalism has been honored as some of the best in the nation, earning recognition from the Scripps Howard Foundation, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Awards, the Green Eyeshade Awards, the Tennessee Press Association, the Tennessee Managing Editors Association, the First Amendment Center and many other industry organizations. Her work has led to criminal charges against wrongdoers, changes in state law and citations in legal opinions and journals. She was married to the love of her life for 28 years and is now a widow and proud mother of two successful children of good character and work ethic.