Supreme Court Won't Hear Springfield Panhandling Case

Feb 29, 2016

Credit WUIS

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday declined to hear an appeal from Springfield over its anti-panhandling law. That means the capital city is barred from enforcing the ordinance because of an injunction.

Springfield's ordinance allows panhandlers in its downtown area to hold signs, but prohibits them from verbally asking for an immediate donation.

Two Springfield residents, who regularly panhandle, filed a lawsuit in 2013 saying the law violates their rights. Attorney Mark Weinberg represents the residents.

"Cities have to consider the First Amendment speech rights of panhandlers in the same way they consider the First Amendment speech rights of everybody else," he said.

A federal appeals court put the Springfield ordinance on hold, saying it restricts the topic of speech.

It could still go to trial in district court in Springfield. Springfield city attorney Steve Rahn said the legal fight will continue. He said the ordinance doesn't regulate speech, just behavior.

"This lawsuit is not at an end," he said. "We are still going to attempt to show that the law does pass the muster under strict scrutiny as well."

The city amended its law requiring panhandlers to keep a distance of five feet from people they’re asking for money. That is the subject of a separate lawsuit.

Courts have struck down similar panhandling laws in Arizona, Massachusetts and Colorado.

The case is City of Springfield v. Don Norton, 15-727.