Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pittsburgh Leaflet Ordinance Challenged

Two anti-abortion activists have won a 28 day injunction of the Pittsburgh ordinance that bans the distribution of unsolicited leaflets or flyers. Albert Brunn and Kathleen Ramsey argue their free speech rights are being violated. U.S. District Judge David Cercone issued a temporary restraining order on the city law that prevented the abortion opponents from putting voter guides on vehicles.

Pittsburgh councilman Bruce Kraus, who authored the ordinance, argues it in no way inhibits anyone's right to free speech. He says the ordinance is completely content neutral. The subject matter of the unsolicited flyers has no bearing on it whatsoever. He says the city law is a way to keep litter to a minimum. Kraus says Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, websites and the Internet offer alternatives to doing paper distribution of one's message. He says "is it really prudent to continue to use paper and paper products to distribute a message that ultimately ends up on a street adding to garbage and litter?"

Kraus also argues that the right of the personal property owner is being dismissed. He says if a person's vehicle is legally parked in a public right-of-way they should not have to deal with unsolicited handbills affixed to their car. The councilman says he authored the anti-leaflet law in response to concrns by constituents about litter from unsolicited materials, no only in his district but throughout the city. The judge has scheduled a hearing on the injunction November 12.

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