938 F.2d 1239 (11th Cir. 1991), 90-5526, Cash Inn of Dade, Inc. v. Metropolitan Dade County

Docket Nº:90-5526.
Citation:938 F.2d 1239
Party Name:CASH INN OF DADE, INC., A Florida Corporation, d/b/a Cash U.S.A. North, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. METROPOLITAN DADE COUNTY, A Political Subdivision of the State of Florida, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:August 14, 1991
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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938 F.2d 1239 (11th Cir. 1991)

CASH INN OF DADE, INC., A Florida Corporation, d/b/a Cash

U.S.A. North, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,


METROPOLITAN DADE COUNTY, A Political Subdivision of the

State of Florida, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 90-5526.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

August 14, 1991

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Michael Winer, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for plaintiffs-appellants.

Roy Wood, Miami, Fla., for defendant-appellee.

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Before HATCHETT and BIRCH, Circuit Judges, and RONEY, Senior Circuit Judge.

RONEY, Senior Circuit Judge:

In this appeal we are asked to review the constitutionality of a local ordinance which requires pawnbrokers in Dade County to close their business at 5:00 p.m. Plaintiff Cash Inn, a pawnshop located in Dade County, maintains that this regulation arbitrarily interferes with its constitutional right to engage in a lawful business. It contends that the ordinance bears no rational relation to the goal of inhibiting the disposition of stolen property. We conclude that the ordinance is rationally related to a permissible governmental interest and thus affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment.

In January of 1989, the Board of County Commissioners for Dade County amended the County code to limit the hours of operation of pawnshops to a period from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., seven days a week. When Cash Inn brought this action for declaratory and injunctive relief, the district court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment. Although the plaintiff challenged the ordinance on several grounds in the district court, the only issue before us is whether the requirement that all pawnshops close by 5:00 p.m. bears a rational relation to the goal of inhibiting criminal conduct. Business regulations such as these are reviewed under the rational basis test. Exxon v. Eagerton, 462 U.S. 176, 195, 103 S.Ct. 2296, 2308, 76 L.Ed.2d 497 (1983); City of New Orleans v. Dukes, 427 U.S. 297, 303, 96 S.Ct. 2513, 2516, 49 L.Ed.2d 511 (1976); Williamson v. Lee Optical Co., 348 U.S. 483, 488, 75 S.Ct. 461, 464, 99 L.Ed. 563 (1955); In re Wood, 866 F.2d 1367, 1370 (11th Cir.1989); Silverstein v. Gwinnett Hosp. Authority, 861 F.2d 1560, 1565 (11th Cir.1988).

This test is generally easily met. A searching inquiry into the validity of legislative judgments concerning economic regulation is not required. Williamson v. Lee Optical Co., 348 U.S. 483, 488, 75 S.Ct. 461, 464, 99 L.Ed. 563 (1954). The task is to determine if "any set of facts may be reasonably conceived to justify" the legislation. McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 426, 81 S.Ct. 1101, 1105, 6 L.Ed.2d 393 (1961). To put it another way, the legislation must be sustained if there is any conceivable basis for the legislature to believe that the means they have selected will tend to accomplish the desired end. Even if the court is convinced that the political branch has made an improvident, ill-advised, or unnecessary decision, it must uphold the act if it bears a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose. Minnesota v. Clover Leaf Creamery Co., 449 U.S. 456, 469, 101 S.Ct. 715, 726, 66 L.Ed.2d 659 (1981).

Under the rational basis test, the primary issues are: first, whether the government has the power or authority to regulate the particular area in question; and second, whether the method the Government has chosen to accomplish this goal bears a rational relation to the ultimate objective.

Both sides appear to agree that the County Commission may legitimately regulate the pawnshop industry in an attempt to reduce the available means of disposing of stolen property. "The business of pawnbrokers, because of the facility that it furnishes for the commission of crime and for its concealment, is one which clearly comes within the control of the police power of the state and is properly subject to regulation...." 54 Am.Jur.2d Money Lenders and Pawnbrokers Sec. 3, at 596-97 (1971). This Court has itself recognized the permissibility of local legislation regulating pawnshops and secondhand dealers. Peterman v. Coleman, 764 F.2d 1416 (11th Cir.1985) (upholding county ordinance allowing officials to conduct warrantless searches of pawnshop records).

The only dispute is whether the commission's decision to require all pawnshops to close by 5:00 p.m. is a rational means of accomplishing that goal. Cash Inn advances

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several reasons as to why the commission's action should be invalidated.

First, Cash Inn claims upon passage, the county failed to articulate any rational reason for the enactment of this ordinance. It points out that the rationales advanced by the county on appeal are not those that were suggested at the time of passage. Yet, legislative acts are to be upheld if there is any conceivable basis to support the regulation. McGowan, 366 U.S. at 426, 81 S.Ct. at 1105. As a result, legislation may be sustained even if the legislative body fails to specify any reasons at all for its action. The fact that the county has advanced rationales which may not have been contemplated at the time of passage is entirely permissible. Scott v. City of Sioux City, 736 F.2d 1207, 1216 n. 11 (8th Cir.1984) (citing Williamson, 348 U.S. at 490, 75 S.Ct. at 465, cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1003, 105 S.Ct. 1864, 85 L.Ed.2d 158 (1985).

The Dade County Commission concluded that despite pervasive regulation of the pawnshop industry, such businesses continued to serve as a viable outlet for stolen property. Once recognizing that pawnshops do facilitate the disposition of stolen property, it is difficult to conclude that the county commission acted irrationally or arbitrarily in determining that a restriction on the hours of operation would limit access to this means of selling stolen goods. As the hours of operation decrease, the number of transactions conducted, some percentage of which involve stolen goods, similarly will decrease. Although not stated explicitly during the meeting, this appears to have been the motivation for the county commission in this case. At a minimum, this is a conceivable justification for the ordinance, rationally related to a legitimate governmental objective.

Second, Cash Inn maintains that the ordinance is unsupported by empirical evidence. The county commission, however, is not required to support its conclusions with empirical data as long as the assumptions its makes are logical. Vance v. Bradley, 440 U.S. 93, 110 & n. 28, 99 S.Ct. 939, 949 & n. 28, 59 L.Ed.2d 171 (1979). The commission heard from various community leaders who indicated their support for the amendment. They stated that pawnshops were not only serving as vehicles for the disposition of stolen property, but were supplying ready cash to young people who then used the funds to purchase drugs. The commission also heard from representatives of the police force who told the commission that their ability to oversee area pawnshops would be greatly enhanced if both criminals and law abiding citizens alike were forced to conduct their business during a limited period. By channelling all business into a ten hour timeframe, officials have limited the amount of time police must devote to monitoring these stores and have increased law enforcement's ability to enforce existing regulations. In addition, police officials can devote their scarce resources elsewhere during the high crime evening hours. Based on the testimony presented at the...

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