Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Homeless man wins $10,000
in panhandling lawsuit

Marion County will pay the homeless man who filed a federal civil rights lawsuit over the county’s panhandling ordinance $10,000 for lost income, emotional distress and mental anguish.

The settlement likely ends the saga of the controversial panhandling ordinance passed in May 2006.

The law required beggars to apply, at a cost of $100, for a license to panhandle. They had to provide the hours during which they would panhandle, the location where they’d do it and a permanent address, which could be a homeless shelter. Anyone who had violated the ordinance in the past by begging without a license couldn’t get a license.

David Booher, who applied for a permit and was turned down because he had violated the ordinance multiple times, was the plaintiff in a civil rights suit filed in July 2007. The suit argued the law violated the First Amendment because panhandling is a protected form of speech and violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment because the ordinance’s rules did not apply to charity groups.

“You can’t pick and choose who you’re not going to allow to solicit money,” said Pete Sleasman, an attorney with Florida Institutional Legal Services, who represented Booher.

In September 2007, U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges issued an injunction prohibiting enforcement of the law because it discriminated against an individual based on economic status and distinguished between who could and could not solicit money “based on the content of their speech.”

With little discussion, the County Commission repealed the ordinance in March of this year.

Read the Ocala Star-Banner report here.


At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great subject. I have been playing around with the idea of the comment structure recently.

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