court may review Lauderdale begging law

Joe Hart & Kay Lee (
Thu, 24 Jun 1999 13:56:34 -0500

From: []
Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 1999 3:38 PM
Subject: [fla-left] [homelessness] court may review Lauderdale begging

Published Wednesday, June 30, 1999, in the Miami Herald

High court may review Lauderdale begging law

Lawyers prepare for final appeal

Herald Staff Writer

Local attorneys working on behalf of homeless people plan
to appeal to the Supreme Court the 6-year-old prohibition
of panhandling on Fort Lauderdale beach.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld the
ban last month, ruling that it did not violate
panhandlers' First Amendment rights because it was a
narrow restriction tailored to serve a legitimate city

Beverly Pohl, a Fort Lauderdale attorney who has argued
the case with the backing of the American Civil Liberties
Union, said there were plans to appeal the decision to the
Supreme Court.

``Panhandling has been recognized by the lower courts as
an activity that's protected by the First Amendment,''
Pohl said. ``This is a ban on panhandling on the sidewalk,
which is the kind of place where First Amendment activity
should receive the highest level of protection.''

Fort Lauderdale officials did not return telephone calls
to request comment.

Pohl and Bruce Rogow -- a constitutional law scholar and
law professor at Nova Southeastern University -- are
arguing the case on behalf of James Dale Smith. They have
until Sept. 2 to file their appeal with the Supreme Court.

Smith, who is homeless, was chosen to represent indigent
people who are affected by the panhandling ban. He
replaced the original plaintiff in the suit, another
homeless man who died after the case was filed.

Pohl and Rogow first challenged the constitutionality of
the panhandling ban in 1993, seeking a temporary
injunction to stop the rule from being enforced.

U.S. District Court Judge Norman Roettger Jr. denied the
challenge, and the city began enforcing the law, Pohl
said. In June, the appeals court upheld Roettger's

A panel of three appeals judges in Atlanta ruled that
while begging was protected under the First Amendment and
the beach was a public forum, the rule is only a narrow
restriction on free speech that is justified by the city's
need to make the beach a desirable tourist attraction.

The limited geographic area covered by the ban would still
allow panhandling in other areas of the city, and the ban
did not make a content distinction -- a key issue when
considering speech restrictions.

Pohl said advocates for the homeless have suggested
substituting the across-the-board ban on begging with a
ban on aggressive or threatening panhandling behavior.

``It would certainly serve their interest without making a
blanket restriction on speech,'' Pohl said.
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