Monday, June 04, 2007

So why did this take 15 years?

A judge has declined to hold New York City in contempt* for continuing to enforce a panhandling law ruled unconstitutional 15 years ago, saying police had made progress recently toward stopping the practice.

The city's "longstanding apathy towards this problem was offensive," U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin said in a decision Thursday. But she said the city was now "striving to fully comply."

But it was only after half a dozen people** who were unlawfully arrested or charged for panhandling or loitering sued the city and asked that it be held in contempt that the police “turned their behavior around,” the judge wrote.

The law banned loitering “for the purpose of begging,” and a federal judge ruled in 1992 that it was unconstitutional to enforce it in New York City. In 1993, that ruling was upheld on appeal.

Read The New York Times story here.
* IMHO, the judge's ruling was correct. One of the elements that must be proven in a contempt case is the contemnor's failure to comply with a court order. In this case, the plaintiffs could no longer prove that.

**An original plaintiff in the case, a longtime panhandler named Eddie Wise, accepted a $100,000 settlement from the city last year, after repeated illegal arrests. See previous posts here and here.


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