Legal and Management

Nashville Producer's Home Studio Lawsuit Dismissed by Court, Plans to Appeal

Lij Shaw
Courtesy of Institute for Justice

Lij Shaw

Lij Shaw is challenging metro code that prohibits home businesses from serving clients on-site.

Grammy-winning Nashville-based producer and engineer Lij Shaw's lawsuit against the city's restrictions on home-based businesses was dismissed on Tuesday (Oct. 1) by Nashville’s Chancery Court of Davidson County. Shaw is a co-plaintiff in the case with hair stylist Pat Raynor and says he intends to appeal the ruling. 

The lawsuit was filed in December 2017 with help from the non-profit libertarian public interest law firm Institute for Justice and non-profit free-market think tank The Beacon Center of Tennessee.

Since 1998, Nashville metro code has prohibited home businesses from serving clients on a residential property, while allowing exemptions for day cares and short-term rentals such as Airbnb to operate in residential dwellings. 

Shaw, who has lived in Nashville since 1991, built his backyard studio after his daughter was born in 2005 so that he could work more closely to his family. When he and his wife separated in 2009 and he became his daughter’s sole caretaker, the studio allowed him to continue working a full time job. Raynor is widow who opened her part-time home salon to help pay her mortgage after her husband died. Institute for Justice attorney Keith Diggs says neither of his clients have ever caused any harm running their home businesses. 

"Lij and Pat have a constitutional right to use their homes to earn an honest living," Diggs said in a statement. "Today’s ruling ignores Nashville’s admission that Lij and Pat never threatened public health or safety. We will keep fighting for Lij and Pat until this unconstitutional law is overturned."

But the court's ruling deemed otherwise and decided the client prohibition is reasonable under the federal and state constitutions. 

"Metro has proffered real, rational and appropriately-related reasons for the Client Prohibition," the decision states. "Those reasons meet Metro’s burden of defending the constitutionality of the Client Prohibition under both due process and equal protection provisions of the United States and Tennessee Constitutions.  The doctrine of 'sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedus'1 applies here – a property owner is free to use his property as he sees fit as long as it does not cause harm to others.  Euclid, 272 U.S. at 387, 47 S.Ct. at 118.  Metro has determined that the Client Prohibition is a reasonable restriction on the use of residential property for the benefit of its citizens, and the Plaintiffs have not shown otherwise."

As for Shaw, he sees this as an issue shaping Nashville's character and undermining its identity as a home for artists and says he's not giving up the fight. 

"Without home studios, there would be no music in Music City. We really need the home studios to survive," he said in a statement. "I look forward to fighting this decision on appeal."

Oct. 2, 1:27 p.m. EST: Updated with an exerpt from the Chancery Court’s decision.