This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Shaun L. Christensen knew the Sundance Film Festival would be the perfect venue to display his abstract art to potential buyers, so seven years ago, the Salt Lake City artist set up shop in Park City's Miners Park.
His plan didn't last long: A Park City code enforcer stopped by to tell Christensen that without a business license, he couldn't sell his art, as hundreds of festival participants strolled by his stand on Jan. 17, 2004.
Christensen protested, citing his right to free expression under the First Amendment. Police hauled him into jail on suspicion of two misdemeanors related to doing business without a license.
The charges were later dismissed in state court, but Christensen didn't want to let the encounter go. He filed a civil lawsuit against Park City, its code enforcer and the two police officers who arrested him, claiming the city's ordinances requiring artists to obtain a business license to sell their wares were overly broad and unnecessarily deprived artists of their constitutional rights.
The case arrived at trial in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, where Christensen's attorney told a jury that Christensen was merely exercising his right to display his original artwork when police infringed upon his rights and shut down his shop.
"At the end of the day we all need to be secure in the exercise of our constitutional rights," Brent Manning said, adding that Park City wants to protect its galleries on Main Street and punishes artists like Christensen in the process.
Peter Stirba, attorney for Park City and its employees named in the suit, said Christensen's understanding of the First Amendment is flawed. Christensen didn't bother to fill out a business license application with the city and had previously been informed that he could be cited if he tried to sell his art without following city guidelines.
Christensen ran afoul of Park City ordinances during the 2002 Winter Olympics at Miners Park, a small public area halfway up Main Street, when police that year told him to get a license or pack up his shop. Stirba also pointed out that Christensen admits he became mouthy with police who questioned him about the artwork, saying "Go ahead, arrest me."
"[Christensen] decided to go to Park City to knowingly violate the law. After being told by a code enforcement officer and two police officers to leave, he refused to stop selling," Stirba said.
"He never filled out an application with Park City so he could sell his art. He had an incorrect, flawed belief that he could sell his art anytime, anywhere and any place and that he didn't have to get a license."
Christensen's lawsuit is his second filed in federal Court. Judge Ted Stewart previously dismissed the case in 2006, saying evidence didn't give a clear indication of whether 47-year-old Christensen's free speech was violated because the lawsuit's description of Christensen's pieces was too vague for him to tell if they fell in that category.
Stewart's dismissal left the door open for Christensen to file an amended lawsuit with a more detailed description of the artwork he was selling the day police arrested him.
Christensen's attorneys refiled the case, in which they are asking for unspecified damages.
Park City ordinances have since been changed to allow street artists to sell their goods at the taxi turnaround at the bottom of Main Street.
The trial is scheduled through Friday before Stewart.