FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nancy Kinnally, Media Relations Consultant, Southern Legal Counsel
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Southern Legal Counsel, pro bono attorney sue City of Lake Worth Beach for enforcing unconstitutional ordinances that prohibit asking for help in public
West Palm Beach, Fla. (June 29, 2022) – Southern Legal Counsel and West Palm Beach pro bono attorney Sabarish P. Neelakanta of SPN Law today filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Lake Worth Beach for enforcing local ordinances that unlawfully prohibit public charitable solicitation, which is protected speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The suit was filed on behalf of Lake Worth Beach residents Craig Kersh, Michael Fields, Roy Kersh and James R. Soares, who have been arrested more than 200 times collectively under local ordinances restricting solicitation in public areas, including along public rights-of-way.
“The City of Lake Worth Beach has enacted and enforced local ordinances restricting free speech in ways that have previously been held unconstitutional by U.S. District Courts,” said lead attorney Simone Chriss of Southern Legal Counsel. “We will continue to take these local governments to task – and to court when necessary – to protect the rights of Florida residents.”
The ordinances do not restrict people from engaging in other forms of speech, such as asking for directions, encouraging people to join a church, or directing people to a local business, but rather single out solicitations of help, the complaint states.
Neelakanta said people have a constitutional right to ask for help, and the Lake Worth Beach ordinances directly violate that right.
“The City should be investing in proven solutions to poverty and housing instability instead of resorting to punitive approaches that drive people further into homelessness,” Neelakanta said.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for the damages the clients suffered and an injunction against continued enforcement of the unconstitutional ordinances.
The case is Kersh et al v. City of Lake Worth Beach, Case No. 9:22-cv-8095.
A copy of the complaint filed today is available here.
Southern Legal Counsel is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that works proactively to ensure fairness, social justice and government accountability for Floridians through focused, high-impact initiatives, policy advocacy and civil litigation.