Challenge to Charlottesville’s Panhandling Ordinance (U.S. District Court, Charlottesville) Filed June 23, 2011. Counsel: Jeffrey Fogel, Steve Rosenfield, Charlottesville; Rebecca Glenberg, Tom Okuda Fitzpatrick, ACLU of Virginia.
Charlottesville’s solicitation ordinances contains several provisions that are unduly burdensome on homeless people. The ordinance prohibits anyone from soliciting money on the Downtown Mall within 50 feet of either of the streets intersecting the mall. It also prohibits soliciting from people sitting at an outdoor café or doing business with street vendors, including passive solicitation such as holding a sign or making a gesture. We filed suit on behalf of five homeless people who depend on begging for their sustenance. The city filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted on January 18, 2012. We appealed to the Fourth Circuit, which reversed the lower court’s dismissal on February 21, 2013. The Court of Appeals held that Judge Moon should not have accepted Charlottesville’s “public safety” rationale for the ordinance without hearing evidence about whether such a rationale was valid. Cross motions for summary judgment were filed on September 25, 2013. Oral argument took place on November 20, 2013. On February 19, 2015, the court ruled that the ordinance was unconstitutional. Charlottesville appealed, but later withdrew the appeal and agreed to pay damages and attorney’s fees to the plaintiffs.
Court Documents (click link to view .pdf)