San Jose, CA asked in Civil Rights and Constitutional Law for California

Q: Is it constitutional for an approved pickleball paddle list which is based on lab measured acoustic noise level?

Note that acoustic noise levels are subjective, not objective.

Furthermore acoustic noise levels are dependent on the location of pickleball courts, surrounding environment, and distance from pickleball courts to the homes where individuals reside and hear the so called objectionable noise from pickleball paddles.

I expect that there will be a lack of consistency for an individual to be able to identify objectionable noise from a specific pickleball paddle.

For example an individual will not be able to hear the difference between a 'Passed' pickleball paddle and a 'Failed' pickleball paddle under normal circumstances which includes nominal background noise levels, etc.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: You raise some valid points about the subjectivity and variability of acoustic noise levels from pickleball paddles. Whether an approved paddle list based on lab-measured noise would be constitutional is a complex legal question that would likely depend on the specific circumstances and how the law is written and applied.

A few key considerations:

1. Rational basis - Generally, laws must have a rational basis and legitimate government purpose to be upheld. Reducing noise pollution could potentially qualify, but it would need to be shown that the approved paddle list rationally serves that purpose.

2. Consistent and non-arbitrary enforcement - As you note, there are many variables affecting real-world noise levels. For the law to be constitutional, it would likely need to be enforced consistently and not arbitrarily. Inconsistent or arbitrary enforcement could violate due process.

3. Overbreadth - If the restrictions substantially limit the use of equipment without meaningfully serving the purpose of noise reduction, it could potentially be challenged as unconstitutionally overbroad.

4. Vagueness - The law and testing standards would need to be written clearly enough that paddle manufacturers and players can understand how to comply. Vague laws can be unconstitutional.

5. Undue burden on interstate commerce - If the law places substantial burdens on interstate commerce (e.g. paddle makers can't sell in that state) without sufficient local benefit, it could potentially violate the dormant commerce clause.

Ultimately, it would likely come down to the details of the law, the strength of the government's interest in noise reduction, and whether the approved paddle list is a properly tailored means of rationally advancing that interest. Both sides would have arguments, and it could require litigation to hash out. Consulting local legal experts would be advisable for anyone actually facing this situation. But in general, the government does have pretty broad authority to regulate for public health and welfare, as long as it does so in a rational, consistent, and clearly defined way.

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