Charleston Tour Guide Training Manual.jpg (copy) (copy)

The 490-page "City of Charleston Tour Guide Training Manual," seen here against the old cobblestones on Chalmers Street, was at the center of a lawsuit over free speech. Wade Spees/Staff

The city of Charleston has filed a legal request asking a judge to reverse his ruling that it can’t require a license for paid tour guides.

That's been the plan since U.S. District Court Judge David Norton on Aug. 3 ruled that the policy was an unconstitutional burden on free speech.

But the 25-page motion, filed in Charleston this week, lays out the arguments why the judge should change his mind.

Many of the arguments cite Norton’s previous orders on the case that seem contrary to his decision. The city said that no alternative to protect its tourism industry was presented that would be less of a burden than licensing, and that licensing to ensure adequate knowledge is "content neutral" and does not restrict free speech.

If the judge doesn't reverse his ruling, an appeal to a higher court could take years to decide. Meanwhile, the city plans to keep giving the test for voluntary certification, and the major tour companies have said they will continue to hire only guides who have passed it.

Before the ruling, Charleston required paid tour guides to pass a test based on a nearly 500-page manual to be issued a license. The Institute of Justice, a free-speech group based in Arlington, Va., sued the city in January 2016 on behalf of three people who had taken the test and claimed it was overly burdensome.

The plaintiffs argued the city was trying to control their speech by making them focus on numerous historical and architectural details that had nothing to do with the stories they wanted to share with visitors.

Attorneys for the city argued that tour guides were free to say whatever they wanted, but that the city had an interest in making sure the details were right, since Charleston’s history and architecture are key components to its popularity as a tourist destination.

Reach Dave Munday at 843-937-5553.