Tuesday, February 21, 2017

KYSC - Champion - 1st Amendment

2015-SC-000570 (February 16, 2017)

Dennis Champion was arrested for violating a Lexington-Fayette County Urban County Government ordinance that sought to restrict panhandling; “No person shall beg or solicit upon the public streets or at the intersection of said public streets within the urban county area.”  Despite cogent challenges to the statute in the lower courts, it was not until the Kentucky Supreme Court accepted discretionary review were Mr. Champion’s free speech rights vindicated.  

The Court held that the ordinance was unconstitutionally overbroad after applying strict scrutiny review as the ordinance sought to regulate the content of speech in public fora.  The Chief Justice, writing for the Court, eloquently held:  “The true beauty of the First Amendment is that it treats both Cicero and the vagabond as equals without prejudice to their message. Freedom of speech does not exist for us to talk about the weather; to accept this liberty is to welcome controversy and to embrace discomfort.”  The Supreme Court remanded the matter back to the Fayette District Court with instructions to dismiss the charge.

Contributed by Linda Horsman