Archive for Monday, February 13, 2012

City to appeal judge’s ruling that part of sidewalk ordinance unconstitutional

February 13, 2012


Lawrence city prosecutors will appeal a recent municipal court decision that declared part of a sidewalk ordinance was unconstitutional.

“The ordinance was extensively researched before it was passed by the city commission,” said Jerry Little, the supervising city prosecutor. “There are several cities that have a similar ordinance, and courts have found these ordinances constitutional. We are confident that our ordinance will be found constitutional.”

Judge Randy McGrath ruled last week the one subsection of the ordinance, which makes it illegal to “continue to obstruct traffic” and includes a definition about people having to walk around someone, was vague.

McGrath’s ruling came as he acquitted Robert Gilmore, 54, Lawrence, of three misdemeanor counts of prohibited use of a right of way for incidents last year on Massachusetts Street.

Gilmore who sometimes goes by the nickname “Simon” is often seen downtown wearing a robe or bed sheet, and his mother has told the Journal-World he received a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia as a child.

Shelley Hickman Clark, an associate clinical specialist with Douglas County Legal Aid, represented Gilmore at the municipal court trial.

Little said the city was only asking a Douglas County district judge to overturn the ruling on the constitutionality of the ordinance. He said the city was not disputing Gilmore’s not guilty verdict.

The city commission approved the sidewalk ordinance in 2005 on a 3-2 vote. It was drafted along with an “aggressive panhandling” ordinance.

McGrath ruled that portions of the ordinance that prohibit people from leaving objects in a right of way and intentionally obstructing traffic were constitutional.

McGrath, who retired as a municipal court judge last year, heard the case because Judge Scott Miller, a former city staff attorney, recused himself.


Jason Nowak 6 years, 4 months ago

Crime, fires, homeless, and the city is worried about this?

Gotalife 6 years, 4 months ago

Robert (Simon) is homeless and has mental illness. Non-medicated schizophrenic homeless men living on the streets, sounds like an enormous problem of safety both for him and for the community.

ghostofrealityspeaks 6 years, 4 months ago

The problem is not the ordinance. McGrath needs to be removed and retire as in never sit on the bench.

lawslady 6 years, 4 months ago

I predict the city will lose this one. In order to enforce a criminal law, it needs to be very narrowly written, so as to give notice to people in a way that allows them to know what it is that is not allowed. The current language could be applied to a lot of people at whom this law was not aimed; for example how many of us impede progress on the sidewalks when there is a parade going on? The city could save time and money by simply coming up with more narrow or exact language.

btownjhawk 6 years, 4 months ago

Why is it always that the city of Lawrence is all to eager to spend tax-payer dollars on legal fees?!

H_Lecter 6 years, 4 months ago

Wonderful picture, I love the gloves. It is so nice to see a picture of someone who is restoring the elegance of fine dining.

oldbaldguy 6 years, 4 months ago

How is it right for a society to allow someone like Robert Simon to live out in the elements? He is entitled to live his life. I know many people have tried to intervene to assist Mr. Simon. What is the appropriate thing to do here?

nativeson 6 years, 4 months ago

The issue that the City is contesting is an ability to regulate the public right-of-way. I do not believe it is about one individual. Municipal ordinances are typically put into place for the good of all citizens. I believe this situation will impact the ability to have any panhandling or other conduct ordinances. The unintended consequent will be a need for more foot patrols downtown and higher incidents of aggressive panhandling behavior. Our downtown could suffer as a result.

Oldsoul 6 years, 4 months ago

Funny the City of Lawrence would take unnecessary punitive action against someone as unfortunate as this when otherwise they virtually underwrite street harassment every day. Terrorizing strangers and otherwise showering them in public with unwanted intrusive attention needs to stop.

The Guardian even published an article for Valentine's Day about it:

"Most of the time, people in public do not want to meet or even talk to someone. They want to get from point A to B or enjoy fresh air. They may be in a hurry or be preoccupied. Therefore, chances are that a person you approach is not going to want to talk to you or interact with you. That has nothing to do with you personally."

Without this understanding many people ( especially women) will not feel safe in public. That's hardly fair or decent or civilized! Likely this is one big reason Kansas has a reputation for being backwards.

nytemayr 6 years, 4 months ago

I think Lawslady is right under the ordinance a police officer could arrest you if you were standing on the sidewalk and the officer walked around you.

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