October 30, 2006

Las Vegas appealing judge's ruling on feeding homeless at parks


The city is appealing a local judge's ruling that a law against providing food to homeless people at city parks is unconstitutional.

A city prosecutor was not given a chance to oppose dismissal of a misdemeanor charge against a California man who was cited under an ordinance the City Council approved in July, Ben Little, an assistant Las Vegas city attorney, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a Friday report.

Little declined further comment, saying the case remained pending following Thursday's appeal.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada hailed Municipal Court Judge George Assad's decision to dismiss the case. Assad said the ordinance was unconstitutionally vague and denied equal protection of the law.

Patrick Band, the California activist who had been issued a summons Aug. 10 for feeding people at a park east of downtown Las Vegas, said he was surprised by the ruling.

"For a judge on that level to throw out a case and to claim it's unconstitutional, that's rare and exciting and interesting," Band told the Review-Journal. "Personally, it's a great thing. I'm glad that's taken care of."

Band was one of five people issued summonses under an ordinance making it illegal to provide food or meals to the indigent "for free or for a nominal fee" in parks.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, a vocal supporter of cracking down on the homeless, has said handouts discourage indigent people from seeking help from social service providers set up to handle mental health and substance abuse problems.

An ACLU lawyer said the city should stop enforcing the ordinance - at least until a federal court rules on the ACLU lawsuit.

"There is absolutely no justification and no basis for marshals, police or anyone else to be arresting or citing people based on this law that a Las Vegas judge has ruled unconstitutional," said Allen Lichtenstein, ACLU general counsel in Las Vegas.


Post a Comment

<< Home