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Case Name Fernandez v. St. Louis County FA-MO-0014
Docket / Court 4:19-cv-01638-SNLJ ( E.D. Mo. )
State/Territory Missouri
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Case Summary
This case successfully challenged county-level statutes restricting roadside solicitation.

A homeless man filed suit against St. Louis County in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on June 5, 2019. Plaintiff was represented by private counsel. Plaintiff was a ... read more >
This case successfully challenged county-level statutes restricting roadside solicitation.

A homeless man filed suit against St. Louis County in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on June 5, 2019. Plaintiff was represented by private counsel. Plaintiff was a self-described “poor, homeless, unemployed single man” who frequently solicited donations from drivers in St. Louis County. At the time of filing, the plaintiff had a valid county solicitor license—that is, he could solicit cash donations from others but only at certain intersections and only three days per year. Because the plaintiff solicited cash donations outside of these three scheduled days, he was cited by county police 39 times.

The plaintiff challenged the constitutionality of multiple sections of the St. Louis County Code: Section 804, which regulates and licenses who may solicit for financial assistance; Section 1209.090, which prohibits pedestrians from soliciting for certain purposes in the roadway; and Sections 716.080 and 716.090, which prohibit vagrancy. Suing under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff alleged that Sections 804 and 1209.090 violated his First Amendment right to free speech, and alleged that Sections 716.080 and 716.090 violated his Equal Protection and Due Process Clause rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. He sought declaratory and injunctive relief to enjoin the defendants from enforcing these provisions. Additionally, the plaintiff sought damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the defendants violated his First Amendment right to free speech in a public place, violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free form unlawful seizures, and subjected the plaintiff to malicious prosecution. The plaintiff also sought attorneys’ fees. The plaintiff also moved for a preliminary injunction the following day based on the same allegations.

Although the case was initially assigned to District Judge Jean C. Hamilton, it was reassigned to District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh on August 22, 2019.

Both parties consented to the granting of the preliminary injunction as to Sections 716.080 and 716.090, and Judge Limbaugh granted the motion on October 10, 2019. The plaintiff renewed his motion for preliminary injunction as to the other two sections a month later after the Eighth Circuit held that Arkansas’ anti-loitering laws violated First Amendment rights of citizens in Rodgers v. Bryant, 942 F.3d 451.

St. Louis County moved for judgment on the pleadings on February 10, 2020. The plaintiffs first argued that the challenges against 716.080 and 716.090 were moot because both laws were already enjoined and the defendant planned to repeal or replace both. Second, the defendant argued that the plaintiff could not challenge 1209.090 as it was already upheld in ACORN v. St. Louis County, 726 F. Supp. 747. Finally, the defendant contended that plaintiff’s challenge of chapter 804 failed as he was unable to plead with probable cause that he was maliciously prosecuted for First Amendment activities.

The defendant’s motion was denied on May 18, 2020. For 1209.090, the court distinguished Acorn v. St. Louis County by citing Thayer v. Worcester, 744 F.3d 60, where a similar ordinance was deemed to not be “content neutral.” The ordinance there was held unconstitutional “because it target[ed] anyone seeking to engage in a specific type of speech, i.e. solicitation of donations.” For chapter 804, the court said defendants failed to tie together the ordinance and defendant’s stated interest in promoting traffic safety. 461 F.Supp.3d 894.

Plaintiff’s renewed motion for a preliminary injunction was denied as moot on October 13, 2020. Because the case had been submitted for trial, Judge Limbaugh stated that the motion was moot as preliminary injunctions merely “preserve the relative positions of the parties until a trial.”

On May 11, 2021, Judge Limbaugh entered judgment in favor of the plaintiff on four of the six remaining claims. 2021 WL 1889914. Judge Limbaugh held that Sections 804, 1209.090, 716.080, and 716.090 violated the plaintiff’s First Amendment rights and therefore voided the provision that prohibited soliciting financial assistance. Judge Limbaugh also held in favor of the plaintiff on his First Amendment claim for damages and awarded $150,000, as well as $138,515.00 in attorneys’ fees. However, the defendants prevailed on the Fourth Amendment and malicious prosecution claims.

Plaintiff filed a notice of satisfaction of judgment on June 17, 2021, and paid his court fees the following day. This case is now closed.

Eric Gripp - 07/15/2021

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) St. Louis County, Missouri
Plaintiff Description A homeless man residing in St. Louis County, Missouri.
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 06/05/2019
Case Closing Year 2021
Case Ongoing No
Court Docket(s)
E.D. Mo.
FA-MO-0014-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
E.D. Mo.
Complaint: Declaratory Relief, Preliminary and Permanent Injunction, and Monell Damages St. Louis County Solicitation and Vagrancy Ordinances [ECF# 1]
FA-MO-0014-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
Order [ECF# 22]
FA-MO-0014-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 70] (2021 WL 1889914)
FA-MO-0014-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Limbaugh, Stephen Nathaniel Jr. (E.D. Mo.) show/hide docs
FA-MO-0014-0002 | FA-MO-0014-0003 | FA-MO-0014-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Eastwood, Hugh A (Missouri) show/hide docs
FA-MO-0014-0001 | FA-MO-0014-9000
Schock, W. Bevis (Missouri) show/hide docs
FA-MO-0014-0001 | FA-MO-0014-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Capizzi, Steven J (Missouri) show/hide docs
Levin, Linda (Missouri) show/hide docs
Moore, Robert C. (Missouri) show/hide docs

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