American Fork settles panhandling lawsuit
American Fork has settled a federal lawsuit alleging the city was enforcing an unconstitutional panhandling statute.
The Utah Legal Clinic and Utah Civil Rights & Liberties Foundation filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in October seeking a temporary restraining order to keep the city from enforcing its statute, which the clinic argues has the same constitutional flaws as a Salt Lake City ordinance that a federal judge struck down in March. The clinic filed the action on behalf of Steve Ray Evans, who is unemployed and homeless.
The agreement signed Friday by Judge Robert Shelby states that American Fork will no longer enforce the panhandling statute.
The city also agreed to dismiss the case against Evans and pay him $750 in damages, as well as attorney fees and court costs totalling $5,327.76.
The lawsuit said Evans had been cited and prosecuted in numerous panhandling cases for using a sign to solicit aid while standing on public sidewalks in the city. The city's ordinance is unconstitutional, the complaint alleged, because it bars only certain types of speech, including asking for rides, money, jobs or business.
Evans was one of the plaintiffs in the Salt Lake City lawsuit, which included the state as a defendant. The city settled, but the state fought on, arguing the widely used statute had a legitimate public safety purpose. U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart disagreed, and ordered the state to quit enforcing it. This summer, Stewart ordered the state to pay $40,000 to the Utah Legal Clinic for its work on the case.
Evans also was the plaintiff in a complaint filed in June that challenged Draper's ordinance. Draper settled the lawsuit in July, pledging it would no longer enforce or prosecute cases under its ordinance. It also agreed to make a payment to the legal firm.