On June 18 and 19, 2009, the Summer Solstics Projekt Festival was slated to take place in Maryland, but after numerous noise complaints at the beginning of the festival, the entire event was shut down. Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and Administrator Larry Smith went to the festival and revoked the permit, ultimately forcing artists and campers/attendees to leave. A lawsuit was filed in December 2011 by Ihnken Productions, compliments of Dale Ihnken, claiming that the revocation was unlawful. Already, a federal judge dismissed added claims that have been filed on behalf of Ihnken, but it was announced in September 2014 that the original complaint will go forward to trial.

Judge Catherine C. Blake dismissed a number of additional claims in February 2013, which included civil conspiracy, violation of free speech, defamation and breach of contract. The current issues at hand will be considered on grounds of whether or not the county of Frederick violated due process via Maryland Declaration of Rights as well as the 14th Amendment. Just last week, Blake opted to dismiss claims against zoning inspector Bill Bigelow and the 2009 country commissions, as well as Sheriff Jenkins professionally but not individually.

Blake’s two targets

Blake is also allowing the lawsuit against Smith, claiming that both Smith and Jenkins are eligible to be sued because the plaintiff allegedly had protected property interest via the farm permit. When an individual has such an interest, he’s guaranteed due process which means getting notice and a platform to speak before getting potentially deprived of said interest. However, the county argues that the plaintiff was provided with “constitutionally adequate” notice given the festival’s circumstances.

By working with a reputable local attorney, Ihnken has successfully moved onto the next big stage in what might be the county’s biggest music lawsuit in history. According to the county, Ihnken had a conversation with police on June 18 discussing the warnings which should serve as “adequate notice.” However, Ihnken says that he was never told about the sheriff being sent to the farm or of a hearing. According to Judge Blake, “The facts of this case demonstrate there was time to properly notify Ihnken of the pending revocation of the permit and to provide him with an informal, but meaningful, opportunity to tell his side of the story.”

Next steps

Court documents show that the county has fought vehemently against the charges, say even more violations were spotted on the festival day that backed up their revocation decision. Specifically, the temporary land-use permit was initially approved for an “eco-friendly sustainable living alternative energy/art fair” and were surprised to find out it featured two stages and dozens of bands.


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