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9th Circuit Rules for City in Day Laborer Free Speech Case

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 10, 2010 12:45 PM

As discussed previously on FindLaw's Law and Daily Life blog, several cities in southern California have passed laws limiting the abilities of day laborers to solicit work. Opponents of these laws have said they are unconstitutional because they limit rights to free speech. The cities claim the laws were enacted solely to protect businesses and individual citizens from problems with noise and loitering.

A suit over a city ordinance from Costa Mesa Ca., (Costa Mesa Municipal Code, §10-354) was halted in March of this year. The parties agreed to place a temporary hold on the suit while the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided the case against a similar law enacted in Redondo Beach. Yesterday, the Court of Appeals found in favor of Redondo Beach, reversing the lower court decision for plaintiffs.

The appeals court ruled that the city law prohibiting the solicitation of work or money by approaching motorists in the street is constitutional. Although some similar laws have been struck down throughout California, the 3 judge panel of the Ninth Circuit found by a 2-1 majority that Redondo Beach was justified in taking such steps under the law to prevent safety hazards and traffic disruptions. The court ruled the law to be a constitutional restriction on the time, place and manner of speech.

This decision does not bode well for the plaintiffs in the Costa Mesa case. Attorneys for the plaintiffs in that case had believed the law unconstitutional in part, on the basis of the lower court ruling against Redondo Beach. Now the Costa Mesa plaintiffs will have to take a hard look at what migh be the most productive path to a positive outcome in their own case.

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