Ninth Circuit strikes down anti-day laborer ordinance
Ninth Circuit strikes down anti-day laborer ordinance
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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Friday struck down [opinion, PDF] a City of Redondo Beach [official website] anti-day laborer ordinance [3-7.1601 text] as an unconstitutional restriction on speech. The ordinance prohibited individuals from standing on a street or highway to solicit “employment, business, or contributions” from passing motorists. The city argued that the purpose of the ordinance was to improve traffic safety and flow at busy intersections. Plaintiffs, which included the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) [advocacy website], argued that the ordinance was a violation of the First Amendment [text] and prevented day laborers from seeking employment. Citing Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators’ Association [Oyez summary], the court stated that the city was free to limit the time, place and manner of expression only if the regulation was narrowly tailored and left open “ample alternative channels of communication.” The court determined that the ordinance failed to satisfy the narrow tailoring element because it regulated “significantly more speech” than necessary to achieve the city’s stated purpose. The city could achieve the same goals by engaging in less restrictive measures, such as enforcing traffic laws at busy intersections. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) [advocacy website], which represented the plaintiffs, applauded the ruling [statement] as a “strong precedent on day laborer rights.”

Today’s … opinion resoundingly vindicates the First Amendment rights of day laborers throughout the western United States. The dozens of similar ordinances through out the region that purport to prevent day laborers from speaking on sidewalks are now even more plainly violative of the Constitution. … The longstanding principle that the right of free speech belongs to everyone has been significantly bolstered by this decision.

The en banc decision reverses a previous panel decision [text, PDF] upholding the ordinance as constitutional.

Rights groups have also asserted the free speech rights of day laborers in their challenge to Arizona’s immigration reform bill [SB 1070 text; JURIST news archive], which provides similar restrictions on solicitation. In January, a coalition of six rights groups filed a petition [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] seeking to block the provisions, arguing that “solicitation speech is expression entitled to full protection under the First Amendment.” Last month, the state of Arizona filed a petition for writ of certiorari [JURIST report] with the US Supreme Court [official website] seeking to overturn a lower court decision enjoining four provisions of the immigration law. The provisions were blocked through a preliminary injunction order issued by the Arizona district court in 2010 and upheld [JURIST reports] by the Ninth Circuit in April.