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Browne v. City of Grand Junction

United States District Court, D. Colorado

June 8, 2015

DEBRA BROWNE, MARY JANE SANCHEZ, CYNTHIA STEWART, STEVE KILCREASE, HUMANISTS DOING GOOD, and ERIC NIEDERKRUGER, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO, Defendant. and GREENPEACE, INC., Plaintiff-Intervenor,

ORDER

CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO United States District Judge

Throughout the country, cities and municipalities are passing ordinances to limit panhandling and begging. In response, citizens and organizations are challenging those measures as abridging their First Amendment rights to Freedom of Speech and Expression. This case involves one such challenge.

This Court reserved ruling on City of Grand Junction’s motion to dismiss to the extent it asked this Court to determine whether Plaintiffs have stated a claim that the ordinance violates the First Amendment, Equal Protection, and Due Process. Today, the Court takes up the unresolved questions, and finds that, at this juncture in the proceedings, Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged their claims. Nonetheless, the Court finds that Plaintiff Niederkreuger has not stated a claim and, therefore, must be dismissed from this action.

I. BACKGROUND

On February 19, 2014, the City of Grand Junction (“the City”) adopted Ordinance No. 4618 with the stated goal of protecting public safety by prohibiting aggressive panhandling and dangerous solicitation of motorists. In response, Plaintiffs Debra Browne, Mary Jane Sanchez, Cynthia Stewart, Steve Kilcrease, Humanists Doing Good, and Eric Niederkruger[1] filed the instant suit, alleging that Ordinance No. 4618 violates their First Amendment rights to Freedom of Speech and Expression. (Doc. # 1.)

Plaintiffs moved this Court to temporarily restrain the City from enforcing challenged provisions of Ordinance No. 4618[2] until a court issues a final ruling on their constitutionality. (Doc. # 6.) On March 21, 2014, Judge Brimmer[3] restrained the prohibition on panhandling on public highways and highway exits. (Doc. # 15.) Consequently, the City’s Chief of Police stayed enforcement of Ordinance No. 4618. (Doc. # 46 at 5.)

On April 2, 2014, the City Council voted to adopt a new panhandling ordinance, Ordinance No. 4627, which amended portions of Ordinance 4618. Ordinance 4627 defines panhandling as follows:

Panhandle/panhandling shall mean to knowingly approach, accost or stop another person in a public place and solicit that person without that person’s consent, whether by spoken words, bodily gestures, written signs or other means, for money, employment or other thing of value.

Grand Junction, Colo., Municipal Code § 9.05.020 (2015).[4] As relevant here, Ordinance 4627 makes it unlawful for any person to panhandle

(a) One-half (1/2) hour after sunset to one-half (1 /2) hour before sunrise;
(e) If the person panhandling knowingly continues to request the person solicited for money or other thing of value after the person solicited has refused the panhandler’s initial request;
(g) Within twenty (20) feet of an automatic teller machine [(ATM)] or of a bus stop;
(i) In a public parking garage, parking lot or other parking facility;
(j) When the person solicited is present within the patio or sidewalk serving area of a retail business establishment that serves food and/or drink, or waiting in line to enter a building, an ...

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