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Wisconsin city to revise handbill rules, attorney says

By The Associated Press

08.25.01

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MADISON, Wis. — The city of Monroe will change portions of its handbill ordinance, an attorney told the federal judge who is hearing a lawsuit challenging the law.

Kevin Reak, a lawyer representing the city in the matter, said Aug. 22 that Monroe would no longer prohibit handbills from being placed on cars parked in public areas.

The ordinance would be changed, he said, so vehicle owners would have to leave a notice on their dashboard specifically stating that they didn't want handbills placed on their cars, similar to notices on homes forbidding leafleting.

The city will also drop a requirement that handbills be folded in a certain manner to keep them from being blown by the wind, Reak said.

The Rev. Ralph Ovadal, who was cited under the ordinance after passing out anti-abortion handbills, filed suit against the laws.

He is also challenging the constitutionality of the provision prohibiting signs larger than 3-square feet on a city right of way without a permit.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb was asked to issue an injunction halting enforcement of the ordinance.

The city maintains that signs on the public right of way are limited in size so that they don't become a safety hazard.

Ovadal contends the city is trying to curb his free speech by limiting the size of signs he and fellow abortion protesters are allowed to carry past the Planned Parenthood clinic in Monroe.

Reak said the changes the city is planning in the ordinance are the result of a previous court decision.

But Bryan Brown, an attorney for the American Family Association Center for Law and Policy who is representing Ovadal, said the city's decision is more likely the result of his client's lawsuit.

"They evidently found our brief persuasive," Brown said.

"Until it entered federal court, they were happy to keep prosecuting on it."

Related

Wisconsin appeals court upholds conviction of abortion protester
Judges reject pastor's argument that the public-safety law violated his free-speech rights.  03.15.00

Milwaukee must allow leafleting on car windshields
Deputy city attorney says city may appeal, likely focusing on strict legal standard used by federal judge.  12.13.01

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