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Council defers decision on asking high court to review Oklahoma City panhandling ruling

The city council will decide later whether to ask the U,S. Supreme Court to rule on a panhandling ordinance. This photo is from August 2010 on the northbound I-235 exit ramp at N 23rd street in Oklahoma City. [Photo by John Clanton, The Oklahoman]
The city council will decide later whether to ask the U,S. Supreme Court to rule on a panhandling ordinance. This photo is from August 2010 on the northbound I-235 exit ramp at N 23rd street in Oklahoma City. [Photo by John Clanton, The Oklahoman]

The Oklahoma City Council voted 6-3 Tuesday to defer for at least two weeks a decision on whether to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a controversial panhandling ordinance. 

The ordinance prohibits individuals from being in medians where traffic is passing by at relatively high speeds. 

Before its adoption nearly five years ago, critics complained the ordinance would criminalize poverty. 

They repeated that complaint Tuesday and said the city had already spent too much taxpayer money defending the measure.

The city's defense is that traffic medians are unsafe for pedestrians. 

A federal appeals court in Denver dismissed that argument, ruled the ordinance violates the First Amendment, and commented that the record "reveals troubling evidence of animus against panhandlers."

The city has spent $234,000 on outside legal services defending the ordinance so far.

Were the justices to accept the case it could provide clues on the First Amendment views of the post-Ginsburg court.

The ordinance was challenged by a panhandler, a news website, a political party and others. The legal team includes the ACLU of Oklahoma and a constitutional law professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

Related Photos
The city council may ask the U,S. Supreme Court to rule on a panhandling ordinance. This photo is from August 2010 on the northbound I-235 exit ramp at N 23rd street in Oklahoma City. [Photo by John Clanton, The Oklahoman]

The city council may ask the U,S. Supreme Court to rule on a panhandling ordinance. This photo is from August 2010 on the northbound I-235 exit ramp at N 23rd street in Oklahoma City. [Photo by John Clanton, The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-6bfd14cdb46713a182653204f25988ea.jpg" alt="Photo - The city council may ask the U,S. Supreme Court to rule on a panhandling ordinance. This photo is from August 2010 on the northbound I-235 exit ramp at N 23rd street in Oklahoma City. [Photo by John Clanton, The Oklahoman]" title="The city council may ask the U,S. Supreme Court to rule on a panhandling ordinance. This photo is from August 2010 on the northbound I-235 exit ramp at N 23rd street in Oklahoma City. [Photo by John Clanton, The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>The city council may ask the U,S. Supreme Court to rule on a panhandling ordinance. This photo is from August 2010 on the northbound I-235 exit ramp at N 23rd street in Oklahoma City. [Photo by John Clanton, The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure>
William Crum

OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman. Read more ›

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