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Constitutional Law — freedom of speech — panhandling

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit


Constitutional Law — freedom of speech — panhandling

A municipal ordinance prohibiting panhandling does not violate the First Amendment.

“The ordinance is indifferent to the solicitor’s stated reason for seeking money, or whether the requester states any reason at all. And if the panhandler uses a sign, which is less threatening than oral demands (the requester need not approach the target), there is no restriction. Springfield has not meddled with the marketplace of ideas. Here, as in McCullen v. Coakley, 134 S. Ct. at 2530–32, what activates the prohibition is where a person says something (in the ‘downtown historic district’) rather than what position a person takes on a political or literary question. Petitioners are free to ask for money anywhere in Springfield outside the ‘downtown historic district’. The Court added in McCullen that selective exemptions from an otherwise-neutral rule do not make that rule content-based. It follows that Springfield’s exemption for signs does not make its ordinance content-based, and plaintiffs do not argue otherwise.”


13-3581 Norton v. City of Springfield

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Mills, J., Easterbrook, J.

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