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Ninth Circuit Upholds Solicitation on Public Sidewalks

Published on September 17, 2011, by in General.

On September 16, the Ninth Circuit ruled 9-2 that cities may not criminalize the act of standing on a public sidewalk to solicit “employment, business, or contributions from an occupant of any motor vehicle.” The case is Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v City of Redondo Beach, 06-55750. Although this is not directly related to petitioning (because petitioners never expect anyone driving a car to pull over to the curb, get out of the car, and sign a petition), the decision illustrates the protection that the First Amendment gives to anyone who uses a public sidewalk for First Amendment activity. Here is the decision. The majority opinion is 23 pages; there is a concurrence and a lengthy dissent.

The decision struck down a city ordinance that had been enacted to stop day laborers from standing on certain busy streets and holding up signs, or otherwise indicating, that they were seeking employment. Thanks to How Appealing for this news.

9 Responses

  1. Aaron Starr

    You’ve got to love the dissent written by libertarian Judge Alex Kozinski, who writes “If I could dissent twice, I would.”

    He is among the most brilliant writers on the bench today.

    I had the pleasure of sitting at the same table with him at a Reason Foundation anniversary event in Los Angeles many years ago.

  2. This is one instance where Judge Kozinski is not being a libertarian! Also I feel his dissent was rude and immature. He says he disagrees with every word in the opinion, include “the” “and” “or”, etc. That is childish. And whether people urinate in public is off the subject.

  3. Demo Rep

    How about throwing a petition into a car window as it goes zooming by ???

    Miss the window and get arrested for littering ???

    Too difficult for a local business folk to put up a bulletin board with listings of folks wanting to get a job ???

    Gee – what is Craig’s list all about ???
    ——–
    P.R. — to get SANE econ laws among other things regarding Demand and Supply — and App.V.

  4. Stine

    In terms of the decision, I think it was right, but Judge Kozinski has some good points. The law is not narrowly tailored. People have the right to solicit, but not to the extent that, as a whole, the group restricts traffic flow on the sidewalks. If the individuals are harassing people, they can be charged under harassment statutes. There is no reason to start restricting speech rights in this fashion because of what someone might do.

  5. Jeff Becker

    I have had the law called on me three times while on public sidewalks. In all three cases I presented the cops with my county “credentials” paperwork signed by the county clerk authorizing solicitation. In the first case, the cop insisted that I keep one foot in the grass so as not to obstruct pedestrians (which I wasn’t – was standing on the edge of the walk). In the second case, I was getting signatures from a theater line and the cop told me to move across the street under threat of arrest. In the third, the sidewalk was in front of a school on a Sunday and the cop didn’t care about my county credentials and arrested me for trespassing. Charges eventually dropped after a very long story hassle, but we were effectively thwarted from completing our signature collection and failed to get our candidate on the ballot.

    BOTTOM LINE: No matter how much you’re in the right, lawsuits over this end up in kangaroo court and waste your time. Unless you can afford a dent in your signature collection timeline to engage in the legal battle, just let the cop be right and go somewhere else to petition.

  6. Andy

    “Aaron Starr Says:
    September 17th, 2011 at 9:42 am

    You’ve got to love the dissent written by libertarian Judge Alex Kozinski, who writes “If I could dissent twice, I would.”

    It’s not libertarian to prohibit free speech on public sidewalks. His opinion on this issue is absolutely horrible. I don’t care how many interviews he’s done with Reason Magazine, this guy is not a real libertarian.

  7. Andy

    Jeff Becker said: “BOTTOM LINE: No matter how much you’re in the right, lawsuits over this end up in kangaroo court and waste your time. Unless you can afford a dent in your signature collection timeline to engage in the legal battle, just let the cop be right and go somewhere else to petition.”

    I totally know where you are coming from here, Jeff, because I’ve been in this situation myself multiple times. However, it should be pointed out that every time we allow the fascist thugs violate our rights to free speech and to petition, it just emboldens them to keep doing it. Sometimes you’ve got to take a stand. That stand could be to get arrested and take it to court, or that stand could be to leave and take the issue up with the watch commander of the police department or the city attorney at a later time. When we run away we “live to fight another day” but only when we fight do we stand any chance of solving the problem.

    The harassment and intimidation tactics of the police, security guards, etc…, against petition circulators is one of the biggest impediments to ballot access that there is in this country. This is a big problem and most of the public is not aware of it.

  8. Demo Rep

    SCOTUS awaits to slam down the 9th Circuit for the zillioneth time — due to the ECONOMIC stuff involved.

    Any of those worker folks assembling outside the 9th Circuit HQ building [or even perhaps on the road in front of each judge’s residence] jumping into cars ??? — doing the stuff complained about in the opinion.

    Any *NO standing* [for ANY reason] roads in the U.S.A. ???

  9. Paulie

    Commercial speech is still speech.

    The stuff complained about is greatly exaggerated.

    People do have a right to stand and sit on sidewalks as long as other people can get by. They are part of the public and thus part owners of those roads.

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