Case: Williams v. City of West Palm Beach

9:21-cv-81537 | U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida

Filed Date: Aug. 30, 2021

Closed Date: Dec. 15, 2021

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On August 30, 2021, three residents of West Palm Beach, Florida, who did not have permanent housing, filed this lawsuit against the City of West Palm Beach (the "City" or the "defendant") in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The plaintiffs, represented by Southern Legal Counsel, the ACLU of Florida, and the Florida Justice Institute, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging a violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. T…

On August 30, 2021, three residents of West Palm Beach, Florida, who did not have permanent housing, filed this lawsuit against the City of West Palm Beach (the "City" or the "defendant") in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The plaintiffs, represented by Southern Legal Counsel, the ACLU of Florida, and the Florida Justice Institute, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging a violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The plaintiffs challenged a 2020 City ordinance that regulated panhandling and soliciting, arguing that the ordinance was a content-based ordinance prohibiting speech soliciting charitable assistance in public fora. The ordinance prohibited soliciting "money or other things of value" or to "solicit the sale of goods or other services" from "any operator or passenger of a motor vehicle that is in traffic on a public street" or in "any public transportation vehicle, or bus station or stop," as well as "within 15 feet of any entrance or exit of any bank or check cashing business . . . or [ATM]." The solicitation could have been "spoken, written, or printed word, or by other means of communication." Further, the ordinance prohibited engaging in "an act of panhandling or soliciting" in the "public areas of downtown and the Northwood area."

The City, citing a blight on the aesthetics of these public areas, considered the ethical and legal ramifications of the ordinance before enacting it. Mayor Keith James pronounced that the ordinance “[did] not criminalize homelessness.” Additionally, an assistant city attorney produced a legal memorandum analyzing the unconstitutionality of the anti-solicitation ordinance.

The City enforced this ordinance in a total of 1503 events involving panhandling since 2019. Each plaintiff had previously been warned by police and/or private security employed by the City that the plaintiff would be arrested for ​either holding signs with messages conveying their need for assistance from vehicles on public roadways, or orally asking for help from pedestrians in the City. 

In their complaint, the plaintiffs sought injunctive relief against future enforcement of the ordinance, declaratory relief, and damages for injury caused by past enforcement. The plaintiffs additionally filed a motion for preliminary injunction on August 30, 2021.

This lawsuit followed other cases brought against Florida municipalities for similar laws criminalizing requests for charity. Such laws had been struck down or repealed in cities such as Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Fort Myers, Tampa, and Miami. In fact, according to the National Homelessness Law Center, no challenge to a panhandling ban across the country had been lost as of December 2021.

On November 22, 2021, the plaintiffs and the City filed a joint status report with the court outlining the terms of a settlement agreement between the parties. The City agreed to repeal two City ordinances, regarding the panhandling ordinance and the enforcement of the ordinance, and pay a monetary amount of $83,600 pending City Commission approval. 

One month later, on December 15, 2021, the court approved the joint stipulation for dismissal with prejudice filed by the parties the previous day which indicated that the parties had settled the case. 

Summary Authors

Richa Bijlani (1/26/2022)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attrorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/60322355/parties/williams-v-city-of-west-palm-beach/


Judge(s)

Middlebrooks, Donald M. (Florida)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Azis, Jacqueline Nicole (Florida)

Chriss, Simone (Florida)

Green, James K. (Florida)

Howell, Samantha Gabriel (Florida)

Siegel, Jodi (Florida)

Taseff, Raymond (Florida)

Tilley, Daniel Boaz (Florida)

Trevisani, Dante Pasquale (Florida)

Udell, Nancy A (Florida)

Judge(s)

Middlebrooks, Donald M. (Florida)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Azis, Jacqueline Nicole (Florida)

Chriss, Simone (Florida)

Green, James K. (Florida)

Howell, Samantha Gabriel (Florida)

Siegel, Jodi (Florida)

Taseff, Raymond (Florida)

Tilley, Daniel Boaz (Florida)

Trevisani, Dante Pasquale (Florida)

Udell, Nancy A (Florida)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Stella, Anthony M (Florida)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

9:21-cv-81537

Docket [PACER]

Sept. 14, 2021

Sept. 14, 2021

Docket
1

9:21-cv-81537

Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and Damages

Aug. 30, 2021

Aug. 30, 2021

Complaint
15

9:21-cv-81537

Joint Status Report

Nov. 22, 2021

Nov. 22, 2021

Pleading / Motion / Brief

Resources

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/60322355/williams-v-city-of-west-palm-beach/

Last updated Sept. 5, 2022, 3:10 a.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link Date / Link
1

COMPLAINT against All Defendants. Filing fees $ 402.00 receipt number AFLSDC-14968164, filed by Thomas W. Hyland, Gary Frashaw, Rosa Ann Williams. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Summon(s), # 3 Exhibit Ordinance, # 4 Exhibit Amended Ordinance)(Siegel, Jodi) (Entered: 08/30/2021)

Aug. 30, 2021

Aug. 30, 2021

Clearinghouse
2

Clerks Notice of Judge Assignment to Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks. Pursuant to 28 USC 636(c), the parties are hereby notified that the U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewman is available to handle any or all proceedings in this case. If agreed, parties should complete and file the Consent form found on our website. It is not necessary to file a document indicating lack of consent. Pro se (NON-PRISONER) litigants may receive Notices of Electronic Filings (NEFS) via email after filing a Consent by Pro Se Litigant (NON-PRISONER) to Receive Notices of Electronic Filing. The consent form is available under the forms section of our website. (mee) (Entered: 08/30/2021)

Aug. 30, 2021

Aug. 30, 2021

PACER
3

Summons Issued as to City of West Palm Beach. (mee) (Entered: 08/30/2021)

Aug. 30, 2021

Aug. 30, 2021

PACER
4

MOTION for Preliminary Injunction by Gary Frashaw, Thomas W. Hyland, Rosa Ann Williams. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Williams Declaration, # 2 Exhibit Frashaw Declaration, # 3 Exhibit Hyland Declaration, # 4 Exhibit Event Reports Summary, # 5 Exhibit Letter to West Palm Beach, # 6 Exhibit City Legal Memo)(Siegel, Jodi) (Entered: 08/30/2021)

Aug. 30, 2021

Aug. 30, 2021

PACER
5

Bar Letter re: Admissions sent to attorney Simone Chriss, mailing date August 30, 2021, (pt) (Entered: 08/30/2021)

Aug. 30, 2021

Aug. 30, 2021

PACER

Clerk's Notice of Judge Assignment and Optional Consent

Aug. 30, 2021

Aug. 30, 2021

PACER
6

NOTICE of Attorney Appearance by Anthony M. Stella on behalf of City of West Palm Beach. Attorney Anthony M. Stella added to party City of West Palm Beach(pty:dft). (Stella, Anthony) (Entered: 09/07/2021)

Sept. 7, 2021

Sept. 7, 2021

PACER
7

Joint MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply/Answer as to 4 MOTION for Preliminary Injunction by City of West Palm Beach. (Stella, Anthony) (Entered: 09/07/2021)

Sept. 7, 2021

Sept. 7, 2021

PACER
8

Joint MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply/Answer as to 1 Complaint, by City of West Palm Beach. (Stella, Anthony) (Entered: 09/07/2021)

Sept. 7, 2021

Sept. 7, 2021

PACER
9

SUMMONS (Affidavit) Returned Executed on 1 Complaint, with a 21 day response/answer filing deadline pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 by Thomas W. Hyland, Gary Frashaw, Rosa Ann Williams. City of West Palm Beach served on 9/1/2021, answer due 9/22/2021. (Siegel, Jodi) (Entered: 09/09/2021)

Sept. 9, 2021

Sept. 9, 2021

PACER
10

ORDER GRANTING IN PART MOTIONS FOR EXTENSION OF TIME,granting in part 7 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Answer to a Complaint or Other Case Initiating Document City of West Palm Beach, granting in part 8 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Answer to a Complaint or Other Case Initiating Document City of West Palm Beach. Defendant SHALL FILE its response to Plaintiffs Motion for Preliminary Injunctionby October 25, 2021. Defendant SHALL FILE its response to Plaintiffs Complaint by November 1, 2021. Signed by Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks on 9/14/2021. See attached document for full details. (mee) (Entered: 09/15/2021)

Sept. 14, 2021

Sept. 14, 2021

PACER
11

Joint MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply/Answer by City of West Palm Beach. (Stella, Anthony) (Entered: 10/21/2021)

Oct. 21, 2021

Oct. 21, 2021

PACER
12

Amended MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply/Answer as to 11 Joint MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply/Answer by City of West Palm Beach. (Stella, Anthony) (Entered: 10/21/2021)

Oct. 21, 2021

Oct. 21, 2021

PACER
13

ORDER REFERRING CASE AND SETTING TRIAL DATE: Jury Trial set for 4/25/2022 09:00 AM before Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks. Calendar Call set for 4/20/2022 01:15 PM before Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks. ORDER REFERRING CASE to Magistrate Judge William Matthewman to conduct a Scheduling Conference. Signed by Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks on 10/21/2021. See attached document for full details. (mee) (Entered: 10/21/2021)

Oct. 21, 2021

Oct. 21, 2021

PACER
14

ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR EXTENSION OF TIME AND REQUIRING A STATUS REPORT. Denying as moot 11 Motion for Extension of Time to File. Granting 12 Motion for Extension of Time to File. Responses due by 12/15/2021. Miscellaneous Deadline 12/15/2021. Status Report due by 11/22/2021. Signed by Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks on 10/22/2021. See attached document for full details. (lbc) (Entered: 10/22/2021)

Oct. 22, 2021

Oct. 22, 2021

PACER
15

STATUS REPORT Joint by City of West Palm Beach (Stella, Anthony) (Entered: 11/22/2021)

Nov. 22, 2021

Nov. 22, 2021

Clearinghouse
16

STIPULATION of Dismissal Joint by Gary Frashaw, Thomas W. Hyland, Rosa Ann Williams (Siegel, Jodi) (Entered: 12/14/2021)

Dec. 14, 2021

Dec. 14, 2021

PACER
17

ORDER CLOSING CASE. Signed by Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks on 12/15/2021. See attached document for full details. (mee) (Entered: 12/15/2021)

Dec. 15, 2021

Dec. 15, 2021

PACER

Case Details

State / Territory: Florida

Case Type(s):

Speech and Religious Freedom

Key Dates

Filing Date: Aug. 30, 2021

Closing Date: Dec. 15, 2021

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Individuals who lacked permanent housing and who had each previously been warned by police and/or private security hired by the City that the individual would be arrested for either holding signs with messages conveying their need for assistance or orally asking for help from pedestrians

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

ACLU Affiliates (any)

Florida Justice Institute

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

City of West Palm Beach (City of West Palm Beach, Palm Beach), City

City of West Palm Beach (West Palm Beach, Palm Beach), City

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Freedom of speech/association

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Monetary Relief

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Damages

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Private Settlement Agreement

Amount Defendant Pays: $83,600

Issues

General:

Poverty/homelessness

Sidewalks