Keep Livability Court alive

Charleston Livability Court Judge Michael Malony fines a College of Charleston student for a public nuisance ticket for a noisy party. (Brad Nettles/Staff)

Some of the things people do to land in Livability Court are things parents wouldn’t let their children watch on television. But in close quarters downtown, the children next door can see it all through their bedroom windows and hear it into the early morning hours.

Once the offenders have been hauled into Livability Court, they are likely to be a little more considerate of their neighbors.

Now the operator of a firm that manages rental property downtown contends that the court itself is unconstitutional, and has filed a suit to that effect in the S.C. Supreme Court.

It would be a pity if the lawsuit were to derail Charleston’s Livability Court.

The court has been an efficient and accessible way to address neighborhood public nuisance problems so families can enjoy being in their homes.

Municipal Court Judge Michael Molony, who presides over it, compares it to the city’s traffic court, which handles motor vehicle citations.

Neighbors have said it works far better than having another judge handle noisy neighbors in addition to domestic violence and animal control. Under that system, public nuisance cases often were shuffled to the bottom of the pile under “more important” ones.

But stopping neighbors who are consistently having loud parties, drinking to excess, littering and neglecting their property is important to those who live near them. And the more quickly and fairly the court deals with those issues, the better it is for the whole neighborhood.

Judge Molony says the vast majority of offenders in his court are students at the College of Charleston. “It’s a wonderful school, but unfortunately, this is a problem,” he said.

Since 2002, the city’s Livability Court has handled most public nuisance charges, and neighbors have expressed satisfaction with the process.

Judge Molony told reporter Robert Behre that he is more interested in solving problems than collecting fines or sending people to jail. But he does impose fines when he thinks it’s necessary. Some are more than $1,000. And he has the authority to send offenders to jail.

Judge Molony said he recently met with College President Glenn McConnell to discuss the issue.

In its orientation program, the college advises students about being good neighbors. Many have never lived in an urban setting and don’t think about their parties keeping other people awake.

They don’t know when garbage, trash and recyclables are picked up, so their waste sits on the curb for days and their garbage cans overflow.

It would be best if neighbors helped each other and treated each other with respect. But that doesn’t always happen. When it doesn’t, it is helpful to have Livability Court render lawful and civil solutions.