Free Speech on the Docket

Hill v. City of Akron

Status:
Closed
Case Dates:
Tuesday, 3 May, 2016 - Thursday, 23 June, 2016
Facts:

Akron’s panhandling ordinance outlawed panhandling “after sunset or before sunrise on any street, sidewalk, public right-of-way, or other public property or on private property between the hours of sunset and 9:00 a.m.” Akron Codified Ordinance § 135.10. Additionally, the ordinance broadly restricted the place and manner of panhandling and required that individuals register with the city in order to panhandle.

On January 11, 2016, we sent a letter and legal memorandum to the mayor and city council of Akron threatening litigation if they did not promptly repeal the unconstitutional law. The city’s law director responded on January 21 and indicated that the city was studying the issue.

Legal Theory:

Under Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court precedent, panhandling is constitutionally protected expressive activity. Akron’s ordinance violates the First Amendment because it places such onerous and wide-ranging limitations on panhandling, enforcing a content-based restriction on one type of speech: that which requests an immediate donation of money.

Status:

After the city made no progress towards repealing the law, we began the process of identifying plaintiffs and preparing for litigation. Cooperating attorney Joseph Mead was assisted in this effort by students from the civil litigation clinic at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Clients were identified and retained.

On May 3, 2016, we filed our Complaint and Motion for Preliminary Injunction in the Northern District of Ohio, arguing that the Ordinance’s many restrictions on panhandling amounted to impermissible content-based suppression of protected speech, and requesting the Court to order Akron to halt enforcement of the ordinance. Judge John Adams was assigned to the case.

On May 9, 2016, less than one week later, Akron’s City Council voted to repeal the Ordinance. On May 11, 2016, we withdrew our Motion for a Preliminary Injunction.

On June 13, 2016, we filed an Unopposed Motion to withdraw as counsel for Plaintiff Jeff Davis because we were no longer able to locate or communicate with him. This motion was granted on June 30 and Plaintiff Jeff Davis’s case was dismissed without prejudice.

We entered into a settlement agreement with the City of Akron on June 23, 2016. The parties stipulated to dismissal on July 1.