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People v. Barton (Challenging Rochester anti-solicitation ordinance)

This case addresses the constitutionality of an anti-solicitation ordinance in Rochester. Michael Barton was prosecuted for allegedly walking into traffic and soliciting funds from passing motorists under Section 44-4(H) of the Rochester City Code. Section 44-4(H) states that “no person on a sidewalk or alongside a roadway shall solicit from any occupant of a motor vehicle that is on a street or other public place.” Despite the fact that, prior to trial, the trial court declared Section 44-4(H) unconstitutional, Monroe County Court remanded the case. Barton appealed the decision to remand on the grounds that the prosecution rests on an unconstitutional municipal ordinance.

The NYCLU filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Barton. The brief alleged that Section 44-4(H) violated the First Amendment for three reasons. First, it is not “narrowly tailored” to only serve significant government interest and it does not allow for ample alternative means of communication. Second, because the ordinance only regulates money begging, the ordinance is “content-based.” Third, the ordinance is “substantially overbroad.” The brief was filed on October 6, 2006. On Dec. 6, 2006, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the County Court’s ruling. The court decided that the ordinance was constitutional and affirmed the County Court’s order that Section 44-4(H) was “content-neutral, sufficiently narrowly tailored and left open ample alternative channels of communication.” 

County Court, Monroe County, Index No. No. 05-0017; New York State Court of Appeals (amicus)

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