A federal appeals court struck down Redondo Beach's ban on day laborers standing on public sidewalks and soliciting work from motorists, Courthouse News Service reported.
The decision in favor of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach, which was handed down Friday from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' 11-member panel, reverses a previous decision by a three-judge panel from the same court last year.
The two groups representing the day laborers argued that the ordinance violated the day laborers' constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection.
Writing for the nine-judge majority, Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. said the city's ordinance was overly broad and violated the workers' free speech rights.
"As the plaintiffs observe, the ordinance even applies to 'school children shouting 'carwash' at passing vehicles,' and 'protestors imploring donations to a disaster relief fund,' Smith wrote.
Smith also said that the ordinance's supposed goal of improving traffic safety and flow at the intersection of Artesia Boulevard and Felton Lane, as well as the intersection of Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Inglewood Avenue, could have been accomplished "through less restrictive measures, such as the enforcement of existing traffic laws."
The day laborers groups hailed the decision, with National Day Laborer Organizing Network Director Pablo Alvarado calling it "an outcome of a struggle in the courts and in the streets that began in the early '90s."
"The ordinances were intended to render day laborers invisible, but the struggle against these ordinances has made day laborers more visible, more powerful," Alvarado said. "For the past two decades, the ordinances have stigmatized day laborers as criminals—now they are civil rights leaders.''
In his dissent, Judge Alex Kozinski called the decision to strike down the law "folly," especially because the "city adopted it to deal with a festering problem."
"As might be expected when large groups of men gather at a single location, they litter, vandalize, urinate, block the sidewalk, harass females and damage property," Kozinski wrote. "Cars and trucks stop to negotiate employment and load up laborers, disrupting traffic."
Kozinski also said the plaintiff's claim that children shouting, "Car wash!" were affected by the law "unlikely and contrived," saying "the judicial imagination can always run wild in conjuring how laws can be misapplied."
Later in the opinion, Kozinski wrote, "There is no evidence that the city has ever enforced, threatened to enforce or dreamt of enforcing the ordinance against sidewalk food vendors, tyke lemonade moguls, Girl Scout cookie peddlers, high school car washers, disaster relief solicitors or middle-aged men cruising neighborhoods looking to pick up teenage girls from their front yards."
Calling the majority opinion "demonstrably, egregiously, recklessly wrong," Kozinski said that he would "dissent twice" if he could.
"Nothing in the First Amendment prevents government from ensuring that sidewalks are reserved for walking rather than loitering; streets are used as thoroughfares rather than open air hiring halls; and bushes serve as adornment rather than latrines," Kozinski wrote.
The solicitation ordinance, which was originally passed in 1987, was enforced for the first time in 2004 when Redondo Beach police arrested 60 day laborers after an undercover sting operation.
The men convicted of violating the ordinance received 180-day suspended jail sentences and three years' probation and were ordered to stay away from the sidewalk where they were arrested.
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network and Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach sued city leaders, arguing the ordinance violated their constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection.
The solicitation ordinance was passed in 1987 but enforced for the first time six years ago, when Redondo Beach police ran an undercover sting that resulted in the arrests of 60 day laborers. Those convicted of violating the ordinance were given 180-day suspended jail sentences, put on three years' probation and ordered to stay away from the sidewalk where they were arrested.
In a 2010 interview with Redondo Beach Patch, based on a 1986 court opinion, which stemmed from a lawsuit filed by ACORN against the City of Phoenix over a similar ordinance.
"The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had already said this was constitutional," he said at the time.
On Friday, Webb told City News Service that the City Council would meet next week to decide whether the city will appeal the Supreme Court.
"It is likely we will appeal," he said.
City News Service contributed to this report.