The ACLU of Louisiana and the City of Slidell have reached a final settlement agreement for attorneys’ fees in their lawsuit over Slidell’s unconstitutional panhandling ordinance. Slidell has now paid the fees because it required panhandlers to register with police and obtain a permit in order to ask for money. In June, a federal judge ruled that the city’s panhandling ordinance was an unconstitutional infringement on First Amendment rights, and ordered Slidell to reimburse the ACLU for its costs and fees in representing its clients.
“Slidell’s attempt to suppress free speech and criminalize poverty by punishing panhandlers was a clear violation of our clients’ constitutional rights, which the court rightly struck down,” said Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of ACLU of Louisiana. “Slidell taxpayers have had to pay for the unlawful actions of their elected officials. We hope that in the future, city leaders will respect the law and Constitution, and not burden their constituents with illegal ordinances and legal fees.”
ACLU of Louisiana filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance on behalf of Gary Blitch, a U.S. Army veteran, and his co-plaintiffs David Knight and Daniel Snyder. U.S. District Judge Lance Africk declared the panhandling ordinance unconstitutional in June.
The plaintiffs were represented by ACLU of Louisiana Staff Attorney Bruce Hamilton, and cooperating attorney Ronald L. Wilson.