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Federal judge certifies class action in NY panhandler lawsuit

[JURIST] US District Judge Shira Scheindlin of the Southern District of New York Tuesday certified a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of approximately 5,000 to 10,000 suspected panhandlers against 553 law enforcement agencies in New York state. The lawsuit alleges that the agencies illegally arrested or forced individuals off public property using a state anti-loitering law that was invalidated in 1992. Scheindlin, who expressed her concern at New York's continued enforcement of the law despite federal rulings striking it down, said that allowing the class action to proceed was the only effective method to ensure that state authorities stop enforcing the law.

In 1992, Judge Robert W. Sweet ruled that the law [NY Penal Law Sec 240.35(1) text] prohibiting loitering for the purposes of begging, violates the First Amendment because begging constituted a "protected communicative conduct" in traditional public forums. The ruling was upheld on appeal in 1993 by the US Court of Appeals for the Second District. AP has more.

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