Costa Mesa Halts Enforcement of Anti-Solicitation Ordinance After Civil Rights Groups Sue

March 2, 2010

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The city of Costa Mesa today halted enforcement of its anti-solicitation ordinance in response to a lawsuit brought by MALDEF, The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. The suit was brought on behalf of day laborers represented by the Asociacion de Jornaleros de Costa Mesa and the Colectivo Tonantzin.

It alleges that the ordinance violates the First Amendment not only because it prohibits day laborers’ constitutionally protected speech, but because it also impermissibly censors a wide range of other individuals and groups, including small businesses that use handheld advertising on public streets, homeless individuals soliciting contributions, and persons engaging in fundraising activities, such as students who attempt to get the attention of passing motorists for car washes.

The city of Costa Mesa agreed to place a moratorium on enforcement of the ordinance pending a decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on a challenge to a similar anti-solicitation ordinance in the city of Redondo Beach.

Gladys Limón, MALDEF staff attorney, stated, “This decision ensures that day laborers and prospective employers can continue to exercise their full right to peacefully solicit employment in public areas, without fear of harassment or threatened enforcement of the ordinance by Costa Mesa police officers.”

“It shouldn’t have taken a lawsuit for the city to understand that this ordinance was constitutionally questionable,” said Hector Villagra, ACLU/SC legal director. “Nonetheless, we are pleased that the city has placed a moratorium on this ban of free speech.”

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund