Norton v. City of Springfield, No. 13-3581 (7th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Springfield has an ordinance that prohibits panhandling in its “downtown historic district”—less than 2% of the city’s area but containing its principal shopping, entertainment, and governmental areas, including the Statehouse and many state-government buildings. The ordinance defines panhandling as an oral request for an immediate donation of money. Signs requesting money are allowed; as are oral pleas to send money later. Plaintiffs have received citations for violating this ordinance and allege that they will continue panhandling but fear liability. They unsuccessfully sought a preliminary injunction. The parties agreed that panhandling is a form of speech, to which the First Amendment applies, and that if it drew lines on the basis of speech’s content it would be unconstitutional. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, upholding the ordinance, which it called “indifferent to the solicitor’s stated reason for seeking money, or whether the requester states any reason at all…. Springfield has not meddled with the marketplace of ideas.” The prohibition is based on where a person says something rather than what position a person takes.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on August 7, 2015.