Wednesday, December 19, 2012

UPDATE: City responds after judge sides with ACLU in panhandling case

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 9:32 AM

The city has released the following statement in response to a federal judge's decision to grant an injunction of its no-solicitation ordinance:

Judge issues preliminary injunction on City’s no-solicitation ordinance

Today the Court granted the ACLU’s request for a preliminary injunction on the no-solicitation zone ordinance. However, the Court acknowledged that the City was seeking to protect public health, safety and welfare and that the ordinance was a City effort to promote a valid public interest. The injunction states that the City may not enforce the ordinance until the trial and a final ruling on the merits. The Court engaged in a very complex constitutional scrutiny of the ordinance, finding several factors held in favor of the City, but ultimately granted the injunction.

“We are disappointed in the Court’s ruling but respect the process. We will carefully review the written ruling when it is issued, likely next week. Our office will consult with City Council and the Mayor, brief them on the ruling and obtain their guidance on future actions in this matter. We continue to believe that the ordinance is constitutional and an appropriate effort by the City to protect our downtown merchants and residents, our visitors, families, and our community. This ordinance was narrowly drawn, carefully crafted, and thoughtfully considered and adopted by our elected leaders. The City did everything possible to create an appropriate tool to protect and support our downtown. We will continue to work with merchants and residents to help the revitalization of our downtown community,” said City Attorney Chris Melcher.

# # #


——- UPDATE, DEC. 18, 5:24 P.M. ——-
A judge ruled this afternoon in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, issuing a preliminary injunction that will prevent the city's downtown solicitation ban from going into effect until legal actions are resolved.

The ban was set to take effect in the core downtown area tomorrow.

The decision is a major victory for the ACLU, because it signals that a federal judge believes the ban is unconstitutional on initial review. It was not immediately clear how the city planned to respond to the major setback, but the Indy has left messages with city public relations.

The following is from the ACLU:

ACLU of Colorado wins first round in First Amendment lawsuit against Colorado Springs
City “no solicitation zone” found to be “likely” unconstitutional

DENVER — Federal District Court Judge Marsha Krieger issued a preliminary injunction today that prohibits Colorado Springs from enforcing its recently-passed “no solicitation zone” in the city’s downtown area. In a full-day hearing on December 13, 2012 ACLU of Colorado attorneys argued that the Colorado Springs ordinance — set to go into effect tomorrow, December 19 — violated the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

“We are delighted the Court agreed to issue a preliminary injunction of Colorado Springs’ no solicitation zone ordinance,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “The charities, musicians and others we represent will now be allowed to continue to exercise their First Amendment guarantee of free expression.”

After the Colorado Springs City Council passed the ordinance on November 27, 2012, the ACLU of Colorado filed the lawsuit on behalf of four organizations and four individuals, including:

Greenpeace and Pike’s Peak Justice and Peace Commission (PPJPC), two nonprofit advocacy organizations that want to carry out outreach and fundraising activities downtown

Star Bar Players, a nonprofit theater group that solicits pedestrians to buy tickets

The Denver Voice, which seeks to protect its right to dispatch newspaper hawkers to the downtown area

James Binder, a street musician who plays the flute on the downtown sidewalks

Ronald Marshall, a disabled Colorado Springs resident who parks his wheelchair on a sidewalk corner while asking politely for spare change

Laurel Elizabeth Clements Mosley and Roger Butts, who assert their right to receive the communications that the new ordinance will silence

“Instead of focusing narrowly on intrusive, menacing or coercive behaviors that invade the rights of others, Colorado Springs banned any and all forms of ‘solicitation’ in a 12-city block swath of downtown, said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “We are relieved the Court agreed that the First Amendment does not allow Colorado Springs to outlaw our clients’ peaceful, non-threatening communications.”

Links to the ACLU’s complaint, legal brief, and other documents can be found at http://aclu-co.org/case/pikes-peak-justice-and-peace-commission-v-city-of-colorado-springs.

The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.

###


——- UPDATE, DEC. 14, 6:53 P.M. ——-

ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein has clarified court actions in a conversation with the Indy today.

Silverstein explained that on Tuesday, a federal judge will not decide the outcome of the suit over the city's panhandling ban, but will decide whether to issue a preliminary injunction, which would prevent the ban from going into effect until the case is decided.

If the judge were to issue the injunction, however, she would be giving the signal that, on first glance, she thinks the city law is unconstitutional. If the injunction is granted, the city could choose to withdraw from the case and rework the law, or drop the law all together. Alternatively, the city could choose to pursue the case in court, which would likely take months, or it could appeal the injunction, which would also likely be time-consuming.

Conversely, if the injunction is not granted, the ACLU would likely consider its options.

Another issue that has been unclear is which party — the city or the ACLU — asked the federal judge to delay a decision on the injunction until next week.

A Gazette story said the city requested the delay. In a press conference today, Mayor Steve Bach denied that claim, and said it was the ACLU that made the request. Silverstein, however, denied making the request.

A partial transcript of the hearing, however, shows that the judge suggested the delay. The ACLU had previously given her written documents to review, which she felt she needed more time to look at. Once the judge announced there would be a delay, the city also decided to submit a brief.

——- ORIGINAL POST, THURSDAY, 5:32 P.M. ——-

After a day in court, the American Civil Liberties Union is announcing that a federal judge will make a decision Tuesday on the group's suit against the city regarding a ban on solicitation in the core downtown area.

The judge's decision will come before the ban is scheduled to go into effect.

ACLU of Colorado legal action against Colorado Springs continues
Judge will issue ruling on First Amendment “no solicitation zone” case next Tuesday

DENVER — Federal District Court Judge Marsha Krieger heard evidence from the ACLU of Colorado and the city of Colorado Springs on the city’s newly adopted “no solicitation zone” ordinance covering 12 city blocks of that city’s downtown area. The ACLU of Colorado had challenged the constitutionality of the ordinance under the First Amendment’s protection of free speech. Judge Krieger announced she will issue an oral ruling on Tuesday, December 18th at 4:00 p.m., one day before the ordinance is slated to go into effect.

“We argued that the charities, musicians and others we are representing in the lawsuit should be allowed to continue to exercise their First Amendment right to communicate with the public,”
said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “We hope the Court agrees.”

After the Colorado Springs City Council passed the ordinance on November 27, 2012, the ACLU of Colorado filed the lawsuit on behalf of four organizations and four individuals, including:

• Greenpeace and Pike’s Peak Justice and Peace Commission (PPJPC), two nonprofit advocacy organizations that want to carry out outreach and fundraising activities downtown
• Star Bar Players, a nonprofit theater group that solicits pedestrians to buy tickets
The Denver Voice, which seeks to protect its right to dispatch newspaper hawkers to the downtown area
• James Binder, a street musician who plays the flute on the downtown sidewalks
• Ronald Marshall, a disabled Colorado Springs resident who parks his wheelchair on a sidewalk corner while asking politely for spare change
• Laurel Elizabeth Clements Mosley and Roger Butts, who assert their right to receive the communications that the new ordinance will silence

“Instead of focusing narrowly on intrusive, menacing or coercive behaviors that invade the rights of others, Colorado Springs banned any and all forms of ‘solicitation’ in a 12-city block swath of downtown,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “We believe the city has unjustifiably transformed peaceful, non-threatening and constitutionally-protected communications into crimes — and the First Amendment does not allow such a overbroad suppression of expression.”

Links to the ACLU’s complaint, legal brief, and other documents can be found at http://aclu-co.org/case/pikes-peak-justice-and-peace-commission-v-city-of-colorado-springs.

The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.

###

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