Panhandling suit proceeds even after city ditches ordinance

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JOPLIN, Mo. – A federal judge has rejected a southwest Missouri city’s request to dismiss a free speech lawsuit over its old panhandling ordinance.

The Joplin Globe reports that the city argued that the suit was no longer applicable because it did away with the ordinance barring panhandling within 150 feet (46 meters) of intersections on busy streets. The ordinance prompted the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri to sue on behalf of a homeless man who left Joplin with his wife after receiving two warnings because they feared being arrested. The suit said they lost the chance to participate in a housing program.

U.S. Judge Douglas Harpool wrote that an “after-the-fact change in policy or conduct” wasn’t sufficient. Court records say that both sides must participate in mediation to attempt to settle.

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