There is quite the fervor among certain American parents about the teaching of critical race theory in public schools. In a recent case out of Missouri, Judge Stephen Clark granted an injunction in favor of one such group of parents. Brooks v. Francis Howell Sch. Dist., 4:22-CV-00169-SRC, 2022 WL 1185147 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 21,
Panhandling & Solicitation
Massachusetts Supreme Court Strikes Down State Panhandling Law
In a recent case out of Fall River, Massachusetts, the state supreme court found a panhandling law so riddled with constitutional problems as to require entire invalidation. Plaintiffs, each a homeless person who sometimes panhandled to meet their basic needs, sought declaratory and injunctive relief against a state law that criminalized signaling to a motor vehicle on a public way “for the purpose of solicitating any alms, contribution or subscription or selling of any merchandise,” but expressly permitted the same conduct undertaken for other purposes or by a nonprofit organization. They alleged violations of free speech rights under the First Amendment and state constitution.
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Eleventh Circuit Upholds Denial of Street Preacher’s Preliminary Injunction Motion
Earlier this year, the federal Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld a district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction requested by a street preacher who alleged that a county government had infringed upon his First Amendment rights.
Adam LaCroix is a street preacher who discusses “Biblical principles of sexual morality” outside public venues …
Tenth Circuit Strikes Down Oklahoma City Median Restrictions
Last week, the federal Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that an Oklahoma City law prohibiting people from remaining on street medians violated the First Amendment. The law was challenged by a diverse group, including panhandlers, minority political parties, and even joggers.
In 2015, apparently in response to concerns regarding panhandling, Oklahoma City passed a law that prohibited individuals from sitting, standing, or remaining in street medians throughout the city. Although the law was motivated by concerns regarding panhandlers, the city sought to justify the law with the presentation of safety statistics regarding pedestrians in street medians. A group of plaintiffs sued the city, and it revised the ordinance in 2017 to limit the law’s coverage to medians along streets with speed limits of 40 miles per hour or greater. Again, the city justified its amended law with safety information.…
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Federal Court Enjoins Chicago Park Speech Regulations
In a case involving violations of nearly every First Amendment protection for speech in public places, a federal court recently enjoined enforcement of new Chicago restrictions on speech in the city’s famed Millennium Park. Evidently hoping to safeguard quiet contemplation of the “Bean” (pictured here) and all but a few other areas of the park, the City enacted an ordinance prohibiting a range of speech.
The ordinance outlawed conduct “that objectively interferes with visitors’ ability to enjoy the Park’s artistic displays” and the “making of speeches and the passing out of written communications” outside a few specified areas. It did not, however, provide any guidance as to how to enforce those prohibitions—leading to an astonishing interaction in which a park employee explained that religion could not be discussed in the park. On February 20th, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois concluded these provisions violated the First Amendment and issued a preliminary injunction barring their enforcement.
The parties challenging the ordinance were a group of college-student evangelists and petition circulators whom the city had rebuffed in their attempts to champion their causes in Millennium Park. Among Chicago’s various attractions, the park held special appeal for the challengers because …
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Tenth Circuit Denies Rehearing In Utah Panhandling Case, Affirms Finding Of Content Neutrality
Last week, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order denying a motion by the plaintiff in the case of Evans v. Sandy City for an en banc rehearing. In ruling on the motion, the court issued a revised opinion. In the revised opinion, the court reaffirmed that Sandy City, Utah’s prohibition on sitting …
Utah City’s Median Restriction Found Content Neutral, Constitutional
Earlier this summer, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Sandy City, Utah’s restriction on sitting or standing in a street median of less than 36 inches in width met constitutional muster. Although the regulation was principally aimed at addressing panhandling activity, the court found the regulation to be content neutral, affirming an earlier district court ruling in the case. The court’s decision appears to offer an avenue for local governments to address safety concerns associated with panhandling, without treading on constitutionally unstable ground.
The Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Reed v. Town of Gilbert resulted in the invalidation of many restrictions on panhandling in municipalities around the United States. To get around the legal defects associated with panhandling prohibitions, municipalities—like Sandy City—have adopted general restrictions on sitting, standing, and remaining in street medians to achieve the same ends.…
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Homeless “Tent City” Is Not Expressive Conduct Protected by the First Amendment, Says Federal Court
Earlier this month, in a case challenging the denial of permits to erect a homeless “tent city” in front of a former elementary school in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, a federal magistrate judge dismissed the organizers’ First Amendment claim. While one count of the plaintiffs’ complaint will move forward, the order dismisses all of the plaintiffs’ federal claims.
Uptown Tent City Organizers and its leader, Andy Thayer, sought a permit from the City of Chicago to establish a tent city in the former elementary school site. In 2016, several homeless people had resided at the site, but the city fenced it off and the homeless people moved to various locations under viaducts along the city’s famed Lake Shore Drive. The plaintiff filed claims in state court challenging the city’s denial of the permit, and the city removed the case to federal court. The plaintiffs lost a motion for preliminary injunction, and subsequently amended their complaint to add First Amendment free speech and assembly, Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment, Fourth Amendment illegal seizure, Fifth Amendment taking, and various state law claims. …
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Upcoming APA Webinar to Discuss First Amendment Issues
Webcast— Special Topics in Planning and the First Amendment: Signs, Adult Businesses, Religious Land Uses, and More
December 14, 2017
1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. EDT
CM | 1.50 | Law
CLE 1.50 through Illinois State Bar
The Planning and Law Division of the American Planning Association is pleased to host the upcoming webcast Special…
Eighth Circuit Upholds Lincoln, Nebraska Anti-Leaflet Policy
Last week, a federal appeals court upheld an order granting summary judgment to the City of Lincoln, Nebraska in a case involving a prohibition on leafleting activity outside of the city’s basketball arena. In the decision, the court determined that the plaza outside of the arena was a nonpublic forum, and that the city’s regulation met the basic requirement of reasonableness for regulations of speech in a nonpublic forum.
In 2010, Lincoln and the University of Nebraska created a joint agency to redevelop a portion of the city and to construct a new athletic arena for the university’s sports teams. In connection with the redevelopment, new pedestrian areas were constructed, including a plaza immediately outside of the arena. The city entered into a private management agreement allowing a concessionaire to manage and operate the arena and surrounding property. After the arena opened in 2013, the concessionaire, SMG, adopted a policy establishing the plaza outside of the arena as a nonpublic forum, and specifically reserved use of the plaza for tenants of the arena. Other pedestrian areas outside of the plaza were designated for public uses.
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