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Milwaukee must allow leafleting on car windshields

By The Associated Press

12.13.01

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MILWAUKEE — The city of Milwaukee must stop enforcing a law that prohibits people from placing leaflets on car windshields because it is unconstitutional, a federal judge has ruled.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman stems from a lawsuit filed by the Florida-based Liberty Counsel, a religious-rights foundation.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Rosemary Deida, a Milwaukee woman who was ticketed for placing leaflets on cars in downtown Milwaukee. According to court documents, Deida was handing out leaflets in City Hall last December.

When she left the building she started placing them on car windshields and when she saw a Milwaukee police officer leaving City Hall she gave him a leaflet. The officer then issued her a $158 ticket.

The city argued that the law protects private property, reduces litter and improves driver and pedestrian safety.

Deputy City Attorney Rudolph Konrad said the city may appeal. He said an appeal would likely focus on the strict standard Adelman used to review the case. Adelman said the city had to show a compelling interest behind the law and must use the least restrictive method to achieve the result.

Konrad said a lower standard that acknowledges cars as private property should be used.

The lower standard would draw a distinction between handing out leaflets in public and placing them on a windshield.

Adelman said the city had not defined "visual clutter" and hadn't explain how the ordinance improves safety or protects property.

The leaflet law applies only to public roadways, not private land, such as church parking lots. It was adopted with other state traffic laws as a city ordinance to allow local enforcement.

Related

Spreading the faith — one windshield at a time
By Ken Paulson Armed with her rights, one woman proves you can fight city hall and win.  12.30.01

Wisconsin city to revise handbill rules, attorney says
Anti-abortion activist, minister is challenging Monroe’s leafleting, sign ordinances in federal court.  08.25.01

Landlords can halt tenant leaflets, rules California high court
Majority finds tenant association has no right to distribute pamphlets in privately owned building that is off-limits to public.  08.31.01

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