SEIU canvassing in Mt. Lebanon

The U. S. Court of Appeals ruled in April 2006 that Mt. Lebanon’s (Allegheny Co.) canvassing ordinance, which required all political and religious groups to register with the police before going door to door, unduly restricted free-speech rights.

Court/Assoc.: Western District - Pennsylvania

Attorneys/Firms: Mike Healey, Douglas McKechnie (Healey & Hornack); Vic Walczak (ACLU-PA)

Door-to-door canvassing law stricken

The U. S. Court of Appeals ruled in April 2006 that Mt. Lebanon’s (Allegheny Co.) canvassing ordinance, which required all political and religious groups to register with the police before going door to door, unduly restricted free-speech rights. Mt. Lebanon had interfered with SEIU’s get-out-the-vote effort before the 2004 elections, prompting the suit. The Court rejected the town’s argument that the law was needed to fight crime, noting that it was “‘intuitively implausible to think’ that those determined to commit [more serious] crimes will comply with the registration requirement. After all, if they are not deterred by the substantial criminal penalties which exist for burglary and violent crime, it is not reasonable to expect that they will alter their behavior because of a $300 fine for failing to register.” The ACLU is looking to challenge other similar municipal restrictions on charitable solicitors that seem to pervade Pennsylvania.

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