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Justices reject appeal over day laborer law

By David Savage, Tribune Washington Bureau –

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court turned down a Southern California city’s appeal seeking reinstatement of its ordinance that prevented day laborers from gathering on busy street corners and soliciting work from passing drivers.

The Redondo Beach ordinance allowed police to arrest men who were seen motioning to passing motorists and allegedly causing traffic problems.

Lawyers for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund in Los Angeles had sued the city on behalf of two groups of day laborers. In September, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the ordinance on free-speech grounds.

Its judges, by a 9-2 vote, said the ordinance was too broad because it applied to all city streets and all pedestrians. The judges also noted the city had not set aside a spot where day laborers could congregate and seek work from interested residents. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote a strong dissent.

He said the city was troubled because as many as 75 day laborers crowded at some busy intersections.

“Nothing in the First Amendment prevents government ensuring that sidewalks are reserved for walking rather than loitering,” he wrote.

Redondo Beach appealed to the high court in December, citing Kozinski’s dissent.

Its lawyers argued that cities should have the authority to regulate persons who use its sidewalks and intersections to solicit passing motorists. But without comment, the high court turned down the appeal on Tuesday.

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