Archive for Friday, August 2, 2013

Appeals panel upholds Lawrence sidewalk ordinance

August 2, 2013


— 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.


Garth Atchison 4 years, 10 months ago

He doesn't need to harassed by cops. He is the poster child for why we need to support mental health programs for the state of Kansas. Our previous history of closing up shop and kicking them all out on the street to save a buck or two doesn't seem to be serving us or them very well.

Brian Hall 4 years, 10 months ago

"Past stories about Gilmore note that he refuses efforts by social service agencies to help him."

Sounds to me even if he's offered services, he doesn't take advantage of them.

BitterClinger 4 years, 10 months ago

Can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped. I'm good with that.

tomatogrower 4 years, 10 months ago

I'll respect his right to not seek treatment, but he has to respect people's rights to walk on the sidewalk. He isn't a bad person, because of his illness, but he can't intimidate others, and I worry for his safety. I haven't seen him in awhile, but he used to walk down the middle of the street, and I was sure he was going to get hit by a car someday.

jafs 4 years, 10 months ago

I've never had a problem walking around him.

In fact, it's less difficult than walking around a group of college students who are out partying.

That's one of the problems with this sort of ordinance, in my opinion. Are we now making it illegal for groups of people to walk down the street??

tomatogrower 4 years, 10 months ago

I don't know much about the incidents for which he received a ticket. I have never had a problem walking around him either. I'm not sure if there wasn't some other problem. When he used to picket outside of Dillons, I asked a friend what happened. She said they threw him and another guy out who were fighting. They didn't ban him, so they weren't discriminating. A fight is a fight. I'm sure the fight and the picketing were part of his paranoia, but only some behaviors can be tolerated in public. If he wishes to continue to not receive treatment, then he has to understand this.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 10 months ago

The idea was to de-institutionalize those with severe mental illnesses, returning them to their home communities where they would receive appropriate services, presumably with the help of whatever support they could get from they friends and family that resided in those home communities. The institutions themselves had become cruel and unusual in their treatment.

It was a noble idea. But after a few decades, it's become clear that that effort has failed. It has failed the individual with the illness and it has failed the community at large. It has failed in Lawrence and it has failed in the overwhelming majority of American communities. It's time to try some new, noble idea. Perhaps that would be to adequately fund services in the home communities. Perhaps it would be to make the institutions less cruel and unusual. Perhaps a combination of the two. But what we are doing now, combined with what we are not doing, has failed the mentally ill and it fails society in general.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 10 months ago

A little greyhound therapy, you suggest. Yes, Lawrence sends their problems to Wichita. Wichita sends their problems to KCK. KCK sends their problems to Topeka. Topeka sends their problems to Salina. Salina sends their problems to Overland Park. Overland Park sends their problems to Lawrence. Lawrence then sends these problems that have been sent to us to ... Wichita. Repeat as needed.

Maybe we could put a case manager on each bus to hand out PB & Js.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 10 months ago

Blue cities send their problems to red cities. Red states send their problems to blue states. Genius, Pheps. Turn people who are ill, through no fault of their own, into a political football, to be punted back and forth.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 10 months ago

I've lived in California and I grew up as a farm boy in western Kansas, so I do know a few things about the food production chain in the United States. But, a lot of food is imported from other countries.

If you want to stop workers from Mexico from earning money that might end up in Mexico, the solution is very simple. You can do your part, you really can. Stop eating fruits and vegetables produced in California (that's an awful lot of them), and all beef and possibly other meat products that are produced in the United States. And, you will need to stop eating a lot of the food produced in Kansas.

The problem is that workers from Mexico work hard to produce food for us, and it seems that most Americans that are born here consider those jobs to be beneath them.

John Kyle 4 years, 10 months ago

"Mexico sends its eyesores to America" jeez, what a racist comment. Not surprised it came from Pheps.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 10 months ago

a substantial number of americans (30,000-70,000) really ought to be institutionalized because of persistent mental disorders posing danger to themselves or others. this same issue is behind most of our country's recent mass casualty shooting situations.

Simon Gilmore once said he walked down the middle of streets because of the condition of Lawrence sidewalks. that's not crazy.

while I'm glad this law was upheld, in this particular application, it isn't going to fix the problem. Simon has refused treatment, happens very frequently among schizophrenics.

do we wish to change the law to give psychiatrists and other doctors the power to compel some patients to comply with their med orders? I doubt that.

Liberty275 4 years, 10 months ago

No American citizen should ever be compelled to put anything into their body. Schizophrenics that refuse to put chemicals into their bodies are just another price we pay for freedom. All we can do is demand the police treat the mentally ill with respect when dealing with them.

I have no reason to think the Lawrence police don't handle such situations appropriately.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 10 months ago

No "competent" American citizen ...

While I haven't seen very many extreme cases here in Lawrence, I've seen some larger cities with the mentally ill living in conditions not fit for a dog. They live in parks, sleep under bushes. I've seen them when they're completely delusional, engaging in angry rants with the voices in their heads. They eat out of trash cans, when they eat at all. Their clothes are ripped and torn to shreds, providing little protection from the elements. Their nails are as long as daggers, just as sharp and they tear at their own skin.

And their workers, where are they? Outreach has been cut, so they sit in their offices and deal with those who can find their way through the maze, those fortunate enough to have enough wits about them.

Liberty, I understand your sentiment. I agree with you in principle. But in reality, the whole system sucks.

Liberty275 4 years, 10 months ago

Competency at first seems important, but if you think about it, incompetency, by itself, is no reason to force people to do things. A person can be very incompetent, and with family support, live some sort of OK life. Are we going to make them take medicine too?

There are alternatives. No person should ever be compelled to put things in their body, but if you break a law you may plea down if you demonstrate you will take your medicine. Otherwise, you serve out your entire sentence and you'll get your Thorazine injected or in a suppository. You can choose.

I know it's easy to want to help people that sleep under bridges and eat from the trash, but as a society, we can't intrude into people's lives without permission until they have been found guilty of breaking some law. At that point, they become wards of the state and they do what the state say's.

When we bypass due process and equal protection, even with the best intentions, we are heading down the wrong road.

jafs 4 years, 10 months ago

Why is it ok to force them to take meds if incarcerated?

I believe that even people in jail have the right to refuse medical treatment, don't they?

It's a very difficult issue, for me. I understand both sides of the argument. It would be nice if there were a way to make sure that the decision was being made with some sort of reasonable understanding of the issues involved, ie. that people knew the pros and cons of taking or not taking certain meds.

Liberty275 4 years, 10 months ago

"I believe that even people in jail have the right to refuse medical treatment, don't they?"

They are then wards of the state and the state is obligated to provide medical care whether the inmate wants it or not. If the state takes on the responsibility for people, as they do when they incarcerate someone, we should demand nothing less than the state insuring the inmate's health, period.

Jafs, it is as simple as being free and not being free. The difficult part is watching free people self-destruct, but self-destruction itself is not illegal. All society can do is offer to help.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 10 months ago

Sometimes, when we take a principle too far, we end up with an absurdity. An example; we all have a right to bear arms, it's right there in the Constitution. So we're all O.K. with giving a loaded gun to a 2 year old? Well, actually no. Does the 2 year old have this right or not? The competency of that 2 year old isn't relevant. That's an absolutists position.

Me, I'd rather insert just a wee bit of common sense into the equation, even if it risks that absolutist's position.

Liberty275 4 years, 10 months ago

"So we're all O.K. with giving a loaded gun to a 2 year old?"

Any American non-felon should be allowed to own a gun.

If they demonstrate they know and follow the law as well as the weapon itself, I see no reason to not allow any American non-felon to own, control and discharge a weapon.

2nd amendment rights begin at birth.

jafs 4 years, 10 months ago

There is no requirement that gun owners know the laws or how to operate guns.

When those are suggested, "pro gun" folks generally strongly oppose them.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 10 months ago

"If they demonstrate they know and follow the law ... " Liberty, now you're introducing the concept of competency, something you argued against elsewhere. Either that two year old has the right to that loaded gun or not, isn't that your position, regardless of competency?

Sorry, no right is absolute. Fighting words aren't protected free speech. I cannot sacrifice my first born son, even if God commands it, under some freedom of religion principle. I cannot engage in plural marriage under the same doctrine. Every right we have has had limits placed upon them. Reasonable limitations, as defined by law and interpreted by courts. Several decades ago, the right to deny treatment was extended to the mentally ill, with devastating results for both them and society in general. It's time for our legislatures to re-examine the length of that right.

jafs 4 years, 10 months ago

Not that simple when it comes to the mentally ill for me.

Otherwise I agree.

But people who are clearly out of touch with reality can't make decisions in their own best interests, even if they wanted to - that's the problem.

Liberty275 4 years, 10 months ago

It is not illegal to be out of touch with reality and it is not your job to dictate reality. All you can do is wait for them to break the law and then punish them with whatever chemical you decide you want to put into their body.

What's next? Are you going to force cancer patients into chemotherapy because in your reality 6 months of horrid life is worth 3 months of torture?

jafs 4 years, 10 months ago

If you care about people, your position is insufficient.

And, I do care about people. I agree that it's not easy to come up with a good policy about this, but that doesn't mean we should just give up.

Of course not - people have the right to make those decisions for themselves. However, in my world view, people need to be able to understand the facets of the decision so that they can make an informed and educated decision.

The problem with the mentally ill (some of them), and with the developmentally disabled population, is that they're not capable sometimes of understanding those, and so they're not making informed decisions on their own behalf.

My wife has worked with the dd population for 30 years or so, and when we discuss this issue, she says it's hard to know if they understand things - for example, the basics of healthy diets. So, when we leave them to the fullest freedom, they make unhealthy choices without really understanding that.

That's quite different from an average person who knowingly makes those choices.

Zype 4 years, 10 months ago

Isn't the judge's name Paula, not Paul?

srothschild 4 years, 10 months ago

You're right. We have it corrected now. Thanks.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 10 months ago

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.

---many paranoid schizophrenics do pose a danger to others, let alone themselves. a study of recent mass cas incidents shows that paranoid schizophrenics are vastly overrepresented as shooters.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 10 months ago

Jhawkinsf, you are correct about the living conditions of many americans with severe mental disorders. institutionalizing would improve their lives vastly. and we would be safer.

L275, I understand your concern about due process. a judge is involved in reviewing the circumstances before committal occurs. now, it is far too difficult to commit people who need this. this is because of the ACLU and other organizations of misguided lawyers.

Liberty275 4 years, 10 months ago

If the dog next door was telling you his owner is evil and deserves to die, but you don't act on the dog's advice, are you such a danger that control of you property (your body) should be taken away? If we intrude into people's lives before they commit a crime, we are acting as thought police and that isn't compatible with America.

My only beef with the ACLU is their ignoring the second amendment. I'd be a card carrying member if they cared as much about advocating for all of our civil rights and not just the issues they have chosen buffet style.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 10 months ago

Pheps, I agree with you about Obamacare and IPAB. and how the government will obviously be discarding people according to age and disability.

but committal does require approval of a judge, can be appealed, and the rights of the individual are protected.

now, an overbearing government that controls you on the basis of "health" that's another story, and the IRS will have your health records enforcing obamacare; and they've proven themselves to be so trustworthy, now haven't they?

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