Day laborers in Oyster Bay. Source: New York Times.

On Tuesday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Town of Oyster Bay, New York’s prohibition on motor vehicle solicitation of employment violated the First Amendment.  The appellate court’s ruling affirms an earlier district court ruling that found similarly.  The plaintiffs in the case were two groups that advocate for the interests of day laborers.

Oyster Bay enacted an ordinance in 2009 that read, in relevant part, “It shall be unlawful for any person standing within or adjacent to any public right-of-way within the Town of Oyster Bay to stop or attempt to stop any motor vehicle utilizing said public right-of-way for the purpose of soliciting employment of any kind from the occupants of said motor vehicle.”  Oyster Bay’s ordinance was ostensibly an effort to curb day laborer solicitation.
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A homeless individual’s sign in Slidell, Lousiana. Source: WWLTV.com.

This week, a federal district court in Louisiana granted a motion for summary judgment invalidating the City of Slidell’s law requiring panhandlers to register and wear identification before soliciting donations.  In a lengthy but thorough order, the court found the city’s law, which applied only to individuals seeking to solicit donations of money or services, content based and unconstitutional, and issued a permanent injunction against enforcement of the law.

The backstory of Slidell’s “panhandler ID” law starts in 2015.  Since then, the city received 70 complaints relating to panhandling and solicitation, but only 14 were “connected to an identifiable individual.”  Because of the difficulty of tracking down panhandlers who were violating city laws, the city council passed an ordinance containing certain registration and identification requirements.  Specifically, the ordinance required individuals to complete an application at least 48 hours prior to panhandling.  To complete the application, a person was to physically appear at the police department between 9:00 and 5:00 on a weekday, fill out the written application (which required listing an address, telephone number, email, and other identifying information), and show a photo identification.  After a group of indigent individuals sued the city over the law, the city removed the 48-hour waiting period and required issuance of a permit for up to 72 hours of panhandling following filing of a complete application.  The 72-hour permit can be extended for up to a year on certain conditions.
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Late last month, a federal district court in Louisiana upheld the City of Shreveport’s ban on door-to-door commercial solicitation, finding that the ban was supported by a substantial governmental interest in community safety, and further finding that the ban directly advanced the government’s interest.  The plaintiff, Vivint Louisiana, LLC, is a maker and seller of

Last Friday, a federal district court in Florida found that the City of Tampa’s restriction on requests for donation or payment—aimed at preventing panhandling and solicitation on city streets—violated the First Amendment.  The court’s decision follows on several other decisions around the country that have invalidated bans on solicitation of donations on the grounds that such bans are not content neutral.
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Bloomington, Minnesota required door-to-door solicitors to obtain a city-issued license.  The regulation defined solicitor in part as “an individual who goes from place-to-place . . . without an invitation from the owner or occupant, for the purpose of: (1) advertising, promoting, selling, leasing, installing or explaining any product, service, organization or cause; (2) seeking donations

The post-Reed assault on panhandling bans continued when a federal court in Massachusetts held that the City of Worcester’s ordinance prohibiting aggressive panhandling was content based and unconstitutional.  In 2014, in an opinion authored by retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter, the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that Worcester’s anti-panhandling ordinance was content neutral and constitutional.  Following Reed, the Supreme Court granted a cert petition in the case, vacated the First Circuit decision, and remanded the matter back to the court of appeals.  The First Circuit then vacated its opinion and judgment and remanded to the district court for further consideration in light of Reed.  Back at the district court, the ordinances—which defined “begging” or “panhandling” as “asking for money or objects of value with the intention that the money or object be transferred at that time and at that place” and also defined “aggressive manner”—were found to be content based, since they applied to particular speech based on the content of the speech.  The court went on to find that the ordinance was not narrowly tailored, as it was not the least restrictive means of achieving the governmental interest at stake.  
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Following the Seventh Circuit’s invalidation of Springfield’s anti-panhandling ordinance, the city amended its municipal code’s provisions regarding panhandling.  The new code provisions prohibited panhandling “[p]anhandling while at any time before, during, or after the solicitation knowingly approaching within five feet of the solicited person,” and defined “panhandling” as a “vocal appeal” for an immediate donation.