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Unconstitutional Panhandling law to be rewritten Tues. in Santa Cruz

by Becky Johnson Monday, May. 22, 2006 at 1:26 PM
becky_johnson222@hotmail.com (831) 423-HUFF HUFF 309 Cedar St. PMB 14B - Santa Cruz, CA. 95060

Santa Cruz draconian law against begging has been ruled unconstitutional by a Federal court. Now the City is going to fix it, but activists say the entire law should be overhauled or the City would be subjected to more lawsuits. The City is dragging its heels on making any real changes.

Unconstitutional Pan...
becky_johnson2006-176.jpg, image/jpeg, 640x480

(photo by Becky Johnson)

May 21 2006

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Only after John Barisone, attorney for the City of Santa Cruz received a 30-page brief in defense of Maurer, did he decide to drop the charges and avoid a constitutional challenge of the law. Since then the City has spent thousands of dollars arguing in federal court claiming the law is constitutional. The Federal Judge disagreed and sided with Mauer. Arrested twice for violating the City's agressive panhandling ordinance Maurer was sitting quietly with a bucket seeking spare change when he had been charged for "using profane or abusive language" while soliciting.

Barisone wrote a letter to Judge Irwin Joseph saying that Maurer didn't break the law because his speech had not been specifically directed at the people from whom he was seeking donations.

Yet John Maurer's attorney, Paul Sanford argued that language to that effect had been specifically deleted by the city council in 2002, primarily so police COULD ticket a person who was sitting quietly seeking donations for "agressive solicitation." In order to persuade the Judge that the ordinance was NOT unconstitutional, Assistant City Attorney Wendy Morgan mislead the court claiming that this was a requirement of the law. Morgan proceeded to quote to Irwin Joseph the "old" ordinance which was more narrowly tailored to only abusive interactions between the defendant and those from whom he sought donations.

"What the law now allows is the ability to ticket someone who sits quietly seeking spare change," Kate Wells commented Sunday on Free Radio Santa Cruz 101.1 FM.

Paul Sanford pointed out to Judge Joseph that Morgan had read the wrong ordinance. Joseph acknowledged he had been given the wrong ordinance, but when Sanford argued that the court should proceed with the trial by first examing the constitutionality of the law. Joseph declined. In order to avoid having to rule on the constitutionality of the case, moved to dismiss, forcing Sanford and Maurer to literally make a "federal case about it."

The city settled with Maurer earlier this month, paying him $5,250. Kate Wells and Paul Sanford get to split $25,000. The settlement also required the city to amend its panhandling law in regard to the use of profanity so that it is no longer unconstitutional.

Kate Wells says she has taken a lot of heat for her share of the settlement by citizens concerned about the financial fix the City is currently in. "I'm sure John Barisone's charges to the City were equal to ours."

She says that she and Sanford made several attempts to resolve the Maurer case without filing a federal suit. Barisone was unmoved. But then, there is more money in it for him if he doesn't settle. Most people in Santa Cruz are unaware that the $500,000 contingency fee the City pays his office annually only pays for his presence at City Council meetings. All other expenses, including the hours he bills the City in court are at additional cost to the City.

During the federal case, there were TWO attornies involved, George Kovacevich and Jeff Barnes, who Wells describes as the wet-behind-the-ears attorney to whom Barisone assigned the case. Wells described that at trial, Barnes tried to argue that it is the "custom" of the police to only city those who are directing profanity at those from whom they are seeking donations, only to be scoffed at by the Judge. "He basically said How can you say this is the custom when the council specifically removed language to that effect?" Then she added "I have nothing but praise for Jeff Barnes. He was hood-winked. It's clear they did this precisely so they could ticket the peaceful behavior of John Maurer sitting quietly with a sign."

Past Barisone Blunders:

--- Blue Lagoon lawsuit re: police harassment by the SCPD --cost to city $500,000 plus
--- DeAnza/Clearview Court rent control abandonment --- where a ruthless out of state corporation seized the life savings of longtime residents and seniors by capitalizing on a flaw in the rent control ordinance written by John Barisone
--- Settled a suit for several thousand dollars with street musician, Michael True, for having copies of his own CD in his guitar case while performing under another Barisone law
--- defended suit against the City when homeless activist, Robert Norse was arrested for obstructing a 20-ft sidewalk with a 2 1/2 foot cardtable costing the city thousands of dollars. Norse was paid a settlement $5000 for the false arrest
--- Barisone has written laws against hackysacking, bubble-blowing, sitting within 14' feet of a building, the "shoulder tap" law, the youth curfew,the "Move-along" law and has prosecuted homeless people on littering charges for feeding the birds
--- Barisone wrote the 5-Minute Rule which limits public comment on consent agenda items to five minutes total, no matter how many items on are on the agenda
--- Spent thousands of dollars prosecuting the author for using sidewalk chalk on a sidewalk
--- Spent thousands of dollars defending against the right of homeless people in Santa Cruz to avail themselves of the necessity defense for sleeping or camping violations with the Camp Paradise case
--- Joined the City with an Amicus brief on a case which supported the right of police torture suspects
--- prosecuted a 76-yr-old homeless woman for tresspassing at the National Guard Armory
--- Barisone is pushing the 15-Minute Law which, if passed Tuesday, May 22, 2006 will make it a crime to exist in a parking garage or selected parking lot for longer than 15-minutes or be cited for tresspassing

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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 3 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
HUFF calls for sweeping changes in the anti-panhandling law HUFF Tuesday, May. 23, 2006 at 8:39 PM
nice Nice Wednesday, May. 24, 2006 at 7:37 PM
Council votes in 15-Min-Law 5-2 Becky Johnson Wednesday, May. 24, 2006 at 8:16 PM

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