Ninth Circuit Finds City Anti-Solicitation Ordinance Unconstitutional

In a recent decision, Committee De Jornaleros De Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach, the Ninth Circuit struck down the City’s anti-solicitation ordinance.  The ordinance, aimed at day laborers soliciting work from sidewalks and meridians, prohibited individuals from “standing on a street or highway and soliciting, or attempting to solicit, employment, business, or contributions from an occupant of any motor vehicle.”

The Court found the ordinance overbroad because it regulated or prohibited more speech than was necessary to achieve the City’s interest in improving traffic safety. Although traffic flow and traffic safety are a legitimate problem in certain parts of the City, and the City’s interest in ameliorating these concerns was a valid interest, this ordinance was not targeted only at addressing these issues.  The Court offered numerous examples of speech that would be prohibited by the ordinance but would not serve the City’s interest in improving traffic safety.  For example, the ordinance would “technically apply to children selling lemonade on the sidewalk in front of their home as well as Girl Scouts selling cookies on the sidewalk outside their school.”

Additionally, the Court found the ordinance to be geographically over inclusive because it applied to all streets and highways in the city, yet the City only introduced evidence of traffic concerns for a small portion of city streets. 

Historically, Courts have allowed content-neutral government regulations of speech when the governmental entity asserted a valid interest in such regulations.  This case indicates that the Court is more willing to closely analyze the asserted interest to ensure that regulations are indeed narrowly tailored to serve this interest, instead of simply deferring to the government’s claimed interest. 

This is a positive decision for workers and unions who encounter problems with law enforcement when picketing, bannering or hand billing.  The decision is also a victory for fellow workers, day laborers, whose attempts to earn a livelihood may not be targeted in Redondo Beach under the guise of traffic safety. 

Gary Provencher

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