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.