The KKK and the 'Adopt-A-Highway' Lawsuit

Georgia’s highest court allowed a lawsuit by a KKK chapter to move forward, setting the stage for a trial.

Geme Blythe / AP

The Supreme Court of Georgia has dismissed an appeal to block a lawsuit brought by the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a local KKK chapter, that is attempting to have its name placed on a stretch of highway in the state.

The KKK has fought for years in court to be able to pick up litter along a highway segment in Georgia, as part of the state’s  “Adopt-A-Highway” program. In exchange for doing so, the group would have its name placed on a sign along the road. The state had denied the group’s application, saying its“long-rooted history of civil disturbance would cause a significant public concern.”

In its decision Tuesday, the court based the ruling to allow the lawsuit continue on a technicality, saying the state agency involved in the case, the Georgia Department of Transportation, hadn’t followed the correct procedure for filing an appeal.

Of the case’s history, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:

For several years, the white supremacist group has been trying to get its name on “Adopt-A-Highway” road signs on a one-mile stretch of Ga. 515 in Union County near the North Carolina state line. The KKK filed suit against the state Department of Transportation over the issue in 2012.

The suit was filed a few months after the DOT rejected the “Adopt-A-Highway” request from April Chambers and Harley Hanson, members of the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. In a letter, the state said it was denying the application based on the KKK’s “long-rooted history of civil disturbance” and the “potential for social unrest.”

The KKK’s lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that denying the group the right to adopt a highway segment violates its free-speech rights.

Along with Tuesday’s decision to allow the lawsuit to go forward, the judge ruled that the Georgia Department of Transportation should be prohibited from rejecting applications to certain groups based solely on a “history of civil disturbance.”