First Circuit Stays Part of Worcester Panhandling Ordinance

The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has granted an injunction against a portion of two anti-panhandling ordinance that went into effect in Worcester earlier this year.  While the Court reviews the entire appeal, the portion of the city ordinance that bans “soliciting any person in public after dark, which shall mean the time from one-half hour before sunset to one-half hour after sunrise” cannot be enforced by city officials.

“We are grateful for this first step,” ACLU Foundation of Massachusetts cooperating attorney Kevin Martin, of the law firm Goodwin Procter LLP, said via a statement issued by the ACLU. “If the Court had not issued this order, people – including not only the homeless but also others such as Salvation Army volunteers – would have been barred from seeking charitable donations starting at about 4 p.m. each day during this holiday season.”

In May 2013, the ACLU of Massachusetts filed suit in federal court in Worcester on behalf of three Worcester residents to block two anti-panhandling ordinances enacted by the City of Worcester, claiming the ordinances violate the constitutional right to peacefully solicit donations in public and to engage the public in political and other speech. The federal district court denied their motion for a preliminary injunction—which would have prevented the City from enforcing the ordinances while our suit proceeded—and they appealed in November 2013 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

The full appeal is expected to be argued in January.

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