Archive for Monday, July 23, 2012

Judge overrules municipal court finding that Lawrence sidewalk ordinance is unconstitutionally vague

July 23, 2012


A Douglas County judge has reversed an earlier decision by a municipal court judge that found part of the city’s sidewalk ordinance was vague and therefore unconstitutional.

The city had filed an appeal after acting Municipal Court Judge Randy McGrath in February acquitted Robert Gilmore, 54, of Lawrence, of three counts of obstructing people from being able to pass on the sidewalk downtown. The three incidents occurred in 2011 in the 900 block of Massachusetts Street.

According to a decision filed in Gilmore’s case, District Judge Paula Martin last week wrote the sidewalk ordinance “is not so vague as to be facially violating of any constitutional provision nor is it subject on its face to arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement.”

The judge cited similar city ordinances in other states that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld.

Elizabeth Hafoka, a city prosecutor, had argued the city ordinance — drafted in 2005 along with a law on aggressive panhandling — was written clearly with plain language and that a reasonable person could easily understand its definition of “to obstruct traffic.”

Prosecutors appealed the case to Martin only on the legal question, asking her to declare the ordinance constitutional. They are not asking her to overrule Gilmore’s acquittal in the case.

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

McGrath had found one subsection of the ordinance that makes it illegal to “continue to obstruct traffic” and the definition about people having to walk around someone was vague and violated the First Amendment. Gilmore’s attorney Shelley Hickman Clark, an associate clinical specialist with Douglas County Legal Aid, said Monday she planned to appeal Martin’s decision to the Kansas Court of Appeals based on that part of the ordinance.

“That’s really the heart of it because I really believe that’s too vague,” she said. “In an urban setting people are just stepping around each other all day long. Who is to say that one person committed a violation of a city ordinance and another person didn’t when all people are doing is walking around each other. It’s so vague.”

Gilmore was convicted in municipal court in a separate case under the city’s illegal camping ordinance, and Hickman Clark has appealed those decisions to Martin. A bench trial in that case is scheduled for next week, she said.


iron_outlaw 5 years, 10 months ago

This is where I want my tax dollars to go! Important issues like do I have to move around someone to get down a 10 foot wide sidewalk.

Hopefully the appeals court refuses to hear the case.

lawslady 5 years, 10 months ago

As much as I may agree with you iron, I don't think that this court can just refuse to hear a case. Unlike the US S.Ct, the Kansas Court of Appeal is not nearly as free to simply decide it doesn't want to hear a case. Check out K.S.A. 60-2102.

iron_outlaw 5 years, 10 months ago

Well I'm going to go ahead and suggest removal of your comment. Simply because it makes me wrong and I have testosterone that won't allow that to happen.

Just between us, thanks for the info.

Kathy Theis-Getto 5 years, 10 months ago

Laws lady, please take note of the statutes use of the word "may". In this case, since the question is constitutionality, it can be appealed to the Supremes, I believe.

Topple 5 years, 10 months ago

It was my understanding that the SCOTUS can refuse to hear a case...why couldn't KS Appeals?

jafs 5 years, 10 months ago

The same rules may very well not apply to state appeals courts and the SC.

Gareth Skarka 5 years, 10 months ago

Only in Kansas would a lawyer argue that a hayseed town like this is an "urban setting."

Oh wait -- her name is Hick man.

Topple 5 years, 10 months ago

Best to avoid Free State Brewery. I feel like I need to borrow my dog's Frontline for fleas before I go in there.

Orwell 5 years, 10 months ago

Best not to say "final solution" around this crowd. It gives them ideas.

deec 5 years, 10 months ago

But it's critically important to persecute mentally ill, nearly-blind people who don't conform to Johnson-county social norms.

Orwell 5 years, 10 months ago

So the law and the courts should only be for citizens with enough money? Great idea.

dragonwagon2 5 years, 10 months ago

Please get Mr. Gilmore some Mental Health Treatment. I have a hard time believing that he is not a danger to himself with his current lifestyle. I understand that Lawrence is a liberal area, but this man could be so much healthier with medication and care.

independent_rebel 5 years, 10 months ago

From what I understand from the many articles about him in the past he refuses help of any kind.

beatrice 5 years, 10 months ago

Almost like he isn't thinking rationally about his needs.

independent_rebel 5 years, 10 months ago

That is what is sad. I don't believe that he can. It's a hard case.

LawrenceTownie 5 years, 10 months ago

Society has turned it's back on the mental ill. We can no longer force someone to take medication or live where we think they would be safer or happier to live. As long as society has this direction, people like Mr. Gilmore will continue take care of themselves. We have taken away family rights to help their own, saying adults, even the mentally ill, can make their own decisions. When we can change these laws perhaps the mentally ill can get the real help they need, rather than be charged with a crime, of which they don't understand at all.

Topple 5 years, 10 months ago

I wonder what constitutes being mentally ill. Perhaps we can start forcing people who are bipolar to live where we think they would be safer (or is it where we would be safer) or take medication. How about people with ADD? OCD?

beatrice 5 years, 10 months ago

The article says the diagnosis was "paranoid schizophrenia," which is far different than just the highs and lows of being bipolar.

Getaroom 5 years, 10 months ago

Let Robert Gilmore be. All this energy being spent on one man is a waste. If, when you are walking downtown and I doubt many of you actually are, and he is sleeping on the side walk, step around him. Roberts mental illness prevents him from associating with the homeless population and sleeping in shelters. If he is in the street - so what! We are all going too fast anyway, slow down. I wonder if any of you writing today has ever bothered to speak to him and treat him like a person rather than an oddity? Is he a drunk? No, he's mentally ill and never drunk that I am aware of and that is not going to change. The persistent homeless population, may or may not be drunks or are mentally ill, generally they don't intentionally block vehicle traffic or impede foot traffic. I don't see what the big deal is. Don't like seeing it! Too bad, it's there and not going away. The homeless population is only worsening as the economy goes down further and it will and you could easily be there yourselves in a heart beat. Tolerance people, tolerance.
When the super wealthy decide to fund mental institutions again, instead of hoarding cash in off shore tax havens, maybe we will see a change, but don't count it. Greed is all that is valued, and it has nothing to do with the marginalized or for that matter anyone who is not 'one of them'. Yes, that means you more than likely, unless you just inherited some of Uncle Mitts cash. I doubt it!

Amy Heeter 5 years, 10 months ago

Bravo! The real joke about comments is that some don't live in Lawrence. Worry about your own city

Ignignokt 5 years, 10 months ago

I want all the window shoppers downtown that get in my way to be charged with this! They're always stopping in front of me (and others) and impeding traffic. Is there a specific hotline, maybe the Tips Hotline, or should I just call 911?

vuduchyld 5 years, 10 months ago

Oh, man. Snow. C'mon had to tease us with snow???

Jayhawk1958 5 years, 10 months ago

The actions of Gilmore hurt our tourism economy.

greenworld 5 years, 10 months ago

Here is Simon's cost and jail log. Now tell me what is wrong here. He is being arrested more than he is living a decent quality life. The reason he walks out in the street is because his glasses broke and cant afford to get them fixed. He is used as a tool and training method for incoming cops to practice arresting somebody for the new incoming cops. From what I understand the cops are told to arrest him anytime he does something wrong and are tired of dealing with him. what a waste of money. This guy isnt hurting a darn thing. Go after the real theives and drugdealing and quit wasting your time on this guy.

Here is Simon's cost and jail log. Now tell me what is wrong here. He is being arrested more than he is living a decent quality life. The reason he walks out in the street is because his glasses broke and cant afford to get them fixed. He is used as a tool and training method for incoming cops to practice arresting somebody for the new incoming cops. From what I understand the cops are told to arrest him anytime he does something wrong and are tired of dealing with him. what a waste of money. This guy isnt hurting a darn thing. Go after the real theives and drugdealing and quit wasting your time on this guy. by greenworld

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 10 months ago

I would imagine that the cops are told to arrest anyone who is breaking the law.

greenworld 5 years, 10 months ago

In terms of taxpayer dollars, Robert Gilmore might be Lawrence’s most expensive person.

Mentally ill patient costing taxpayers

A well-known homeless man in Lawrence is costing local taxpayers. Robert Gilmore has cost the city about $25,000 each year for the past 10 years in jail and arrest costs. Enlarge video

Gilmore, 52, who can frequently be seen in downtown Lawrence wearing a robe or bedsheet and socks on his hands, has cost taxpayers $250,000 over the past decade.

The Journal-World and 6News tracked Gilmore’s arrest record and time he has spent in Douglas County Jail since 2000. Gilmore’s frequent encounters with the local criminal justice system — which often include offenses such as illegal camping and blocking traffic — have led to 106 arrests and the equivalent of about four and a half years spent in jail over the past 10 years.

Related document

Jail costs from 2000-2009 ( .PDF ) . Jail costs alone for Gilmore have topped $166,000 for the 1,617 days he’s spent there, and costs per arrest — based on national estimates of between $500 and $1,000 for minor offenses — place Gilmore’s per-year cost to taxpayers at around $25,000.

In times of city budget cuts, furloughs and layoffs, is there a cheaper — and more effective — way to deal with Gilmore?

greenworld 5 years, 10 months ago

Gilmore, who sometimes goes by “Simon,” has been profiled in the Journal-World several times, following arrests and unsuccessful efforts by social service agencies to help him.

Friends from the School of the Ozarks, where Gilmore went to college in the 1970s, have described him as “brilliant,” though he exhibited odd behaviors back then. Previous Journal-World articles state that Gilmore’s mother said he received a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia in childhood, and that Gilmore has spent time in psychiatric facilities.

Approached in downtown Lawrence, Gilmore declined to talk with the Journal-World.

Whether marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, or sleeping in a downtown alley, Gilmore has been a well-known figure in the community for years.

“It’s just part of Lawrence,” said Sgt. Bill Cory, spokesman for the Lawrence Police Department.

Despite Gilmore’s frequent run-ins with authorities, Cory said Lawrence police have no particular protocol when they respond to Gilmore.

He commits a crime, such as blocking a street, and police arrest him. Sometimes, Gilmore is charged with additional offenses resulting from the arrest, such as obstructing justice or resisting arrest.

Gilmore gets booked into Douglas County Jail, serves his time and is released. Only to be arrested again.

It’s a cycle that benefits no one and costs taxpayers, said Rick Cagan, executive director of the Kansas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“It’s not working for him and it’s not working for others,” Cagan said. “I don’t know why the city and county aren’t doing more.”

Dave Corliss, Lawrence city manager, said he wasn’t surprised to hear taxpayers’ yearly cost for Gilmore.

“I think it more disappoints me,” Corliss said, and the city has explored options for a better solution for Gilmore.

“The city has been trying to facilitate some of those discussions,” Corliss said.

But those discussions have not led to alternative housing options, and Corliss said Gilmore has at times declined private housing services.

Former Lawrence Mayor Boog Highberger said that he’s been providing legal representation for Gilmore, but declined to comment on his case.

greenworld 5 years, 10 months ago


Lack of resources

Efforts to house hard-to-place individuals such as Gilmore are also hamstrung by a lack of resources, said Shannon Murphy, who runs Douglas County Jail’s re-entry program. While she couldn’t speak directly about a particular case, Murphy said a lack of housing for the mentally ill remains a huge gap for inmates returning into the community.

“There’s not a lot of options,” she said. “People end up on the street or at the shelter.”

Murphy said the statistics show that Gilmore is not alone in his cycle of trips to Douglas County Jail.

In 2009, 43 percent of inmates booked into the jail were there for the second time in a year, and 900 people accounted for the more than 2,400 jail bookings in 2009.

The numbers highlight a trend across the country as mental health funding gets slashed from state budget deficits, said Dave Johnson, CEO at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

“We’re just criminalizing mental health care,” Johnson said. At Bert Nash, Johnson’s budget has been cut $1.5 million, and the agency has had to eliminate about 5 percent of its work force.

The cuts to mental health funding will lead to more expensive treatment — in the criminal justice system, he said.

“It’s done supposedly as a means to deal with budget problems, but it’s just pushing the cost somewhere else.”

Housing options

A national housing program, Housing First, could provide a solution for Gilmore’s situation, said Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. The program, modeled in larger communities across the country, works on the philosophy that it’s easier to address mental health and substance abuse issues when someone first has a home.

“Stability of a place to live makes services more effective,” Roman said.

Housing First programs provide free housing for chronically homeless people, then service providers slowly work to address people’s other issues.

The key, said Roman, is to offer housing with as few conditions as possible.

“They reject housing over time because it has strings,” she said.

National programs have been shown to reduce costs over time for the hard-to-place homeless, but Roman said that even if the costs were equal, such programs make sense for people such as Gilmore.

“We’re spending $25,000 whether we leave him on the street or whether we house him,” she said. “No one thinks it’s a good idea for the public sector to be spending this much money for a bad outcome.”

But giving someone free housing goes against societal norms that people should earn what they have, or that some people choose to be homeless, Johnson said.

“It’s not a person who’s lazy, yet those stereotypes still persist,” he said. “It’s not a choice anybody would really make.”

This article was wrote May 9th 2010 by Lawrence Journal World.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 10 months ago

He should be able to get a pretty good apartment for about two thousand a month and cover utilities also. I am thinking that in this case he would be assigned a case manager from Bert Nash who would see that his bills are paid, but I am not sure about that. He would also have to find someone willing to rent to him.

sleepy33 5 years, 10 months ago

First of all, he could get a very nice apartment for around $600 a month, utilities might run another couple hundred tops. Second, someone would have to help him apply for disability benefits, then likely become his payee to receive the money and help him manage it. But then what? Living alone, unsupervised in his new apartment, who's to ensure he's taking his meds? His best option would be to do an inpatient stay for around 30 days to figure out what meds work best and get him stabilized, then transition him to a residential facility for a month or two to help him maintain his regimen, and maybe then think about him living independently. Long-term stabilization for someone with a severe & persistent mental illness is challenging, but it's near impossible when the facilities, programs and dollars aren't there to begin with.

ku_tailg8 5 years, 10 months ago

I would love to start a city where the morals and values from the 60's were still in effect. Just local channels and not 400+ cable/satelite channels. You would have to apply for relocation but I would guarantee that city would take off. Nowadays there is too much 'me' in the crowd. I'm owed something, like this fella. We are a lazy nation looking for handouts. Congrats to us folks who go to work each day supporting these lazy ass folks.

Ricky_Vaughn 5 years, 10 months ago

How about a BUM-FREE ordinance? Is that too vague?

Jayhawk1958 5 years, 10 months ago

Leo Berman must be rolling in his grave in regards to Gilmore.

Jason Johnson 5 years, 10 months ago

Are we talking about that guy that pushes a baby stroller around town with a blow-up dolls and little dolls?

Deb Engstrom 5 years, 10 months ago

You're talking about Dennis. Someone has stolen his doll and he is desperate to find her. All of his friends in downtown Lawrence are on the alert. Maybe you can help.

greenworld 5 years, 10 months ago

no the doll guy is a different Simon Gilmore is a guy that has been around forever that wears socks on his arms and sometimes wears a red shirt that says "Thats my Dillons" on it.

akt2 5 years, 10 months ago

The sidewalk dining areas obstruct walkers more than anything. You have to walk around them single file, hoping that someone is not coming from the opposite direction. They really screwed up downtown when they dreamed this concept up. I don't know why a person would want to sit on the sidewalk and breath exhaust fumes throughout their meal.

equalaccessprivacy 5 years, 10 months ago

I sure wish backwoods people would stop training up their kids to approach complete strangers with that mindless,"Need help?" come on. I was terrorized by such people in Lawrence to the point that leaving the house became an ordeal. Such aggressive behavior is unsafe for all parties involved. Freedom of movement is a constitutional right too.

I now have PTSD thanks to the southern-justice BS I was subjected to by the dishonest KU HR for standing up to this crap. Those liars will even stoop to inventing witnesses and they have the school cops and county DA's in their back pocket. Plus, they do not bother following required internal due process grievance procedures. KU is by far the most sub-standard and uncaring(not to mention not overly bright) environment I've ever had to deal with.

It's wrong to approach strangers for discriminatory reasons. It interferes with people's equal right to privacy and to enjoy public space. Assume strangers want nothing to do with your challenged brains and incompetent definitions of "help" and you'll probably be right. Everyone has the right to dismiss that which insults their souls.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 10 months ago

Some of this reminds me of Soapy in "THE COP AND THE ANTHEM."

greenworld 5 years, 10 months ago

So basically according to arrest records with Mr Gillmore, how in the world can one MAN be arrested this many times for creating movement in his life and just walking around downtown and doing nothing. Also it appears that once somebody has put himself or others around him as a danger or unsafe person it is a crime and you arrest them. Look that one up. It appears that they dont show up anymore to ask or say Mr Gilmore is there something we can help you with its just no hello and turn around you are being arrested again for being in the way. Like I said a training tool for LPD to modify their own needs and to some maybe even showing their true colors which we have seen arent that great in the past. The department itself is a failure to the system and it shows when you removed two of your finist officers as of late. ALso he walks around and does nothing and gets arrested and yet I still see people time and time again standing around panhandling and begging for money and this isnt a crime. I thought there was a no panhandling law so why isnt it being enforced. The question isnt whether you have enough Sean Penns on the department but rather do you have enough Robert Duvalls. We all know the old bull doesnt win in the end , its always the young bull.

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