Thursday, November 16, 2006

Paying The Legal Fees

Also from today's Route 19 News Briefs

Commissioners unanimously agreed to pay $67,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union to cover legal fees incurred in a federal lawsuit. The ACLU, on behalf of the Service Employees International Union, sued Mt. Lebanon in 2004, claiming a municipal ordinance that required door-to-door canvassers and salespeople to get permits was unconstitutional. The federal court agreed that canvassing should not require permits but it allowed the town to continue to require permits for salespeople.

The town's ordinance recently was changed to reflect that ruling. Commissioner Keith Mulvihill said the ACLU had asked for a higher amount but that the figure to be paid was agreed upon during mediation in September.
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10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course the ACLU asked for a higher amount.

What a discrace to have to pay that money so we don't get door to door sales people.

Other cities in other states don't have this issue. Why does Lebo?

November 17, 2006 8:17 AM  
Blogger Greg Daubner said...

It didn't say that we had to "pay that money so we don't get door-to-door sales people." It said that Mt. Lebanon had to pay that money because what was being done was illegal and a lawsuit had to be filed to get Lebo to stop. The ACLU had legal expenses because of Mt. Lebanon's mistake. Who else should pay?
Also, the law still does require that sales people get permits. The ACLU sued beause political and religious groups were required to buy a permit to canvass--a clear violation of the US Constitution's First Ammendment.

November 17, 2006 9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wrote it wrong.

I'm just P-O'd that we have to pay $68K to ACLU for their work, probably a few hours of work on their end. We are cutting things that could benefit everyone, and the billion dollar ACLU comes in and wants as much as they can get to fund their beauracratic organization.

Luckily they accepted our $68K.

They file a lawsuit, and they ask for money. It is a very good business they are in. I know plenty of lawyers and I know exactly how this works.

November 17, 2006 10:46 AM  
Blogger Mike Madison said...

Anon-
ACLU isn't a hold-up organization. It challenged an indefensible ordinance, and when Mt. Lebanon stuck to its guns, the plaintiffs had to go to the federal Court of Appeals to get the ordinance struck down. This was hardly a few hours of work, and it was an important victory for the First Amendment.

November 17, 2006 10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure it will stand as a turning point for the country. ;)At a cost of a beautiful playground for the kids.

I believe if a Religous Group wants to protest outside the White House, they need a permit. Am I wrong?

Mt Lebanon was not trying to be discriminatory. The Plaintiffs had to go to Federal Court because they knew that it was easy money. We were not going to spend millions defending it.

Maybe we should take $68K from the people who made the decision to fight it further.

Total waste of money.

November 17, 2006 12:03 PM  
Blogger Mike Madison said...

I'm certain that the ACLU would have been perfectly happy to have Mt. Lebanon agree to revise the policy without the time and expense of a court fight. You're right that the ACLU has better things to do than litigate in two federal courts to get a result that it should have gotten for no money and a phone call. Waste of money? Absolutely. But put the blame where it belongs: on the Municipality.

If you want to block streets or sidewalks or hold a parade, you need a permit, but you don't need to identify yourself and all of your members to the government. We have a First Amendment for a reason, and it applies to Mt. Lebanon just like it applies to bigger fish.

November 17, 2006 12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still unsure of what the original bill said. Does anybody have that?

I still don't know why it was wrong. Requiring permits for door to door people?

The only reason I would say it is wrong is if you allowed it for a few religous groups but not for all religous groups.

Can we just eliminate all door to door people no matter what? 1st Ammendment allows people to speak freely without the Federal Govt stopping them. The 1st ammendment doesn't give them permission to go on my property and knock on my door.

November 17, 2006 12:54 PM  
Blogger Mike Madison said...

The First Amendment says that government cannnot interfere with freedom of expression. Government permit requirements are a form of interference. Not all interference (and not every permit requirement) is unconstitutional. Some interference is OK, so long as it is appropriately related to the goals that government is trying to serve. (Beyond this, the legal rules get pretty murky and detailed.) Mt. Lebanon's ordinance required that anyone going door to door identify themselves, in advance, to the Municipality. There is a long tradition in this country of permitting people to speak anonymously; that is, the government can't require that you identify yourself in order to participate in political (or religious, or any other) discussion. And the court of appeals found, as the Supreme Court had found in an earlier, similar case, that the "crime fighting" justification for the ordinance wasn't particularly strong, especially when the canvassers in question were religious, since there's no evidence that a registration requirement actually affects crime levels.

November 17, 2006 1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I lived outside P.A. we just had a rule saying no soliciting. It worked fine, no law suits.

November 17, 2006 1:44 PM  
Blogger Greg Daubner said...

If you don't like taxpayers having to pay $67,000 in legal fees, there are three things you can do. First, you could go to meetings and speak up. Tell the people voting not to waste money by passing ordinances that are obviously not going to constitutional muster. You could also find out who voted for such ordinances and not vote for them come their next election. Finally, you could run for the position yourself and then you could make decisions that you think are wiser.

November 17, 2006 9:03 PM  

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