City Council Delays Vote Taking OKC's Panhandling Ban To Supreme Court

Tuesday, September 29th 2020, 5:50 pm
By: Storme Jones

Appealing the City of Oklahoma City’s panhandling ban to the U.S. Supreme Court was on Tuesday’s city council agenda.

They discussed the issue, but decided to wait and take another look in two weeks.

Last month, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law saying it violated the First Amendment.

“It’s an ineffective and expensive and unconscionable way to try to solve the problem of poverty by eradicating it’s reminder,” ALCU staff attorney Megan Lambert said.

The ordinance was passed in 2015 and updated in 2017.

The City of Oklahoma City has racked up more than $200,000 defending the ordinance outlawing standing, sitting or staying in public medians.

Lawyers for the City argued people being on medians is a public safety issue.

Last month, the panel of three judges on the 10th Circuit Court said it was “baffled” by a lack of evidence from the City.

"…although city officials identified pedestrian presence on medians as one of their highest concerns, they were unable to identify any accidents in which a pedestrian on a median was involved," the court wrote.

The court said the median should be treated like a public forum and banning people from a public forum is a violation of the First Amendment.

The ALCU said the are prepared to take their case to the high court but hope new members on the Oklahoma City City Council show they have “learned from past mistakes.”

“More than likely, the petition would be denied and the City would have ramped up more legal fees in writing a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court only to be denied and sent back to district court to figure out how much attorney's fees they now owe us,” Lambert said.

The City said following the 10th Circuit Court’s ruling, it has instructed police offers to not enforce the ordinance.