Topeka A panel of the Kansas Court of Appeals today upheld Lawrence's sidewalk ordinance, which had been challenged as unconstitutional by a homeless man who has been arrested repeatedly by police.
The attorney for Robert S. Gilmore argued that the city ordinance that prohibits obstruction of traffic was vague and too broad.
Gilmore, 55, had been charged on three counts of obstructing people from being able to pass on the sidewalk in front of Weaver's Department Store at the corner of Massachusetts and Ninth streets in 2011.
Last year, Lawrence Municipal Court Judge Randy McGrath acquitted Gilmore.
Prosecutors appealed the case to Douglas County District Court Judge Paula Martin on the legal question only, asking her to declare the ordinance constitutional. They did not ask her to overrule Gilmore's acquittal in the case. Martin upheld the ordinance.
The three-judge panel of the Kansas Court of Appeals affirmed Martin's decision.
The ordinance prohibits obstructing "traffic on any street, sidewalk, or other right-of-way of this city after having been ordered by a police officer to end such obstruction."
The ordinance further states that obstructing traffic means " … to walk, stand, sit, lie or place an object in a manner as to: block lawful passage by another person or vehicle, or to require another person or driver to take evasive action to avoid physical contact … "
Legal arguments for Gilmore's defense said the ordinance didn't sufficiently define "evasive action."
But the appeals panel said the ordinance gives a person an opportunity to know what conduct is prohibited, and that person is given a warning before they are subject to arrest.
Gilmore, who sometimes goes by the nickname "Simon," has often been seen in downtown Lawrence. His mother has told the Journal-World that he received a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia as a child. Past stories about Gilmore note that he refuses efforts by social service agencies to help him.