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Federal judge rules panhandling ban in Maine unconstitutional

The United States District Court of Maine [official website] ruled on Wednesday that a city ordinance banning people from panhandling in median strips of streets was unconstitutional. US District Judge George Singal [official profile] found [Reuters report] that the Portland, Maine ordinance's [city code] distinction between allowing people to be in the medians to place political campaign signs, and disallowing people to loiter in the medians was a violation of the First Amendment right [LII backgrounder] to freedom of speech. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine (ACLU) [advocacy website] challenged the ordinance, arguing that the First Amendment protects all citizens equally, regardless of wealth. The ACLU also argued that the motive behind the ordinance passed in August, was not safety, but rather the protection small businesses in the area. City officials argued that the increase in panhandlers in 2012 and 2013 created a safety hazard for motorists.

In June the ACLU filed a motion [text, PDF] in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [official website] for the review of of FISC opinions to identify which are subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [ACLU backgrounder] disclosure. In September, the FISC granted [JURIST report] the ACLU's motion. In 2012, the ACLU joined with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) [advocacy website] to challenge portions of the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act [campaign website], enacted by Proposition 35 [materials], that require all registered sex offenders, even those with decades-old misdemeanors and non-Internet related offenses, to turn in their Internet usage information to law enforcement.

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