Public Law

Updates on Public Law in Massachusetts from Anderson & Kreiger LLP

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Is Your Panhandling Ordinance Unconstitutional, Too?

After a Supreme Court decision calling into question the constitutionality of many municipal sign bylaws on free speech grounds, cities and towns may find their panhandling ordinances have also become vulnerable to First Amendment challenges. With little comment, the Supreme Court vacated a judgment upholding the City of Worcester’s panhandling ordinance and remanded it to the First Circuit Court of Appeals for further consideration in light of Reed v. Town of Gilbert, its June 18 ruling invalidating the Town of Gilbert, Arizona’s sign bylaw.

The First Circuit’s original decision in Thayer v. City of Worcester had upheld Worcester’s panhandling ordinance, which was intended to prohibit “all aggressive solicitations and roadside demonstrations, regardless of the speaker’s message or ideology.”  The appellate court had found those prohibitions “content neutral,” and dismissed the plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims. Obviously, the Supreme Court majority concluded that the First Circuit’s idea of what constitutes a “content neutral” regulation was inconsistent with its holding in Reed.

Image Credit: Francis Storr

About the Author

George A. Hall, Jr. – Partner

George represents clients on local government issues, particularly zoning and other land use matters.


About the Author

Mina S. Makarious – Partner

Mina represents clients on municipal, environmental, land use, and airport matters.

Please contact him at (617) 621-6525 or mmakarious@andersonkreiger.com.


Posted In: First Amendment

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