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A Look Into the ACLU Lawsuit Against the City of Joplin - KOAM TV 7

A Look Into the ACLU Lawsuit Against the City of Joplin

Updated:
Joplin, MO -

     There's new information about the legal precedent for a lawsuit filed last week by the ACLU against the City of Joplin for violating the first amendment.
In February - the city council passed an emergency ordinance to restrict solicitation at busy intersections with speeds greater than 35 miles an hour.
The city cited safety concerns for both solicitors and drivers.
Gillian Wilcox, A.C.L.U. Staff Attorney: "If there is a legitimate safety concern, the law still has to be narrowly tailored to meet that concern, and our belief is that this law is not narrowly tailored and it does restrict more speech than would be necessary."
Under the revised Joplin solicitation ordinance if you're caught asking for money from cars at a busy intersection like this, you could be found guilty of a misdemeanor, and the ACLU says that violates the first amendment, and Joplin attorney William Fleischaker, explains why."
William Fleischaker, Attorney: "It's aimed only at specific language, language of panhandling, for instance, it doesn't stop people if they want to make a political protest or carry a sign or something like that, it doesn't stop commercial speech, you see people standing by the corner of 7th and Range Line advertising businesses and stuff like that, so, the ordinance has to be content neutral."
Solicitation - is a type of free speech - and the first amendment says a government cannot make a law that targets a specific type of free speech.
However, there could be an easy solution.
Fleischaker: "If it's really a safety regulation, then it should prohibit all activity regardless of the content of it."
We reached out to the city for comment, however, they told us they cannot comment on pending litigation.
The ordinance did come under fire when it was first presented in January - and was ultimately tabled because the council could not determine if the ordinance was too restrictive.
When it was passed in February - councilman Taylor Brown still voted 'no' - citing concerns the ordinance would be more counter productive to efforts to assist the homeless in the city.
     According to the ACLU...this isn't the first case of a city allegedly over-stepping first amendment boundaries in the state of Missouri.
 

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Chris Warner
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A Joplin native, Chris first started in broadcasting at age 16 at KSNF-TV in 2004..

Chris joined the KOAM team in 2017 as an Associate Producer. In April, he moved into a full-time reporter position. He spent time from 2008 to 2016 in various retail roles around the region before returning to his passion at KOAM. Chris is excited to continue telling the stories of the four states. Chris and his wife Amber live in Joplin and have three amazing children.

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