Federal Judge Strikes Down Enforcement of St. Louis Anti-Leafleting Law


Ruling makes it easier to accessorize someone else's ride.
  • Ruling makes it easier to accessorize someone else's ride.
U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel issued a consent judgment yesterday calling the enforcement of an anti-leafleting law in St. Louis an infringement on the First Amendment right of free speech.

The judgment follows a complaint filed by the ACLU of Eastern Missouri on behalf of a group opposed to developer Paul McKee's controversial NorthSide development plan.

The group, Committee for More Responsible St. Louis City Government, distributed handbills on vehicles in north St. Louis in order to raise awareness of the McKee's development planned for that neighborhood and solicit signatures for a petition drive that would demand a city-wide vote on the project.

According to the ACLU lawsuit filed on the group's behalf, the committee claimed intimidation from city officials and the police department after one of their members was arrested for distributing fliers on cars.

In his judgment, Sippel ordered that the city take necessary steps to ensure that the anti-leafleting law is removed from law enforcement charge codes and that all police officers, park rangers, and others charged with enforcement are made aware of change within sixty days.

Yesterday the ACLU praised Sippel's decision.

"There is a long established right to free political speech while on public property. The flyers in question are clearly political in nature," said Anthony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU's St. Louis office. "Our clients feared that any future leafleting activity may result in their arrest. Today's consent judgment ensures that their right to expression will not be suppressed."

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