9-2 decision holds restrictions on day laborer speech unconstitutional

LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, in a precedent-setting 9-2 decision in favor of day laborers, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision in Comité de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach, striking down the City of Redondo Beach's anti-solicitation ordinance as a “facially unconstitutional restriction on speech.” Citing “well-established principles of First Amendment law,” the en banc Ninth Circuit concluded that the city's “Ordinance fails to satisfy the narrow tailoring element of the Supreme Court's time, place and manner test.”

Today's decision sets a strong precedent on day laborer rights and stands as one in a line of successful cases brought by MALDEF on behalf of the rights of day laborers in the Ninth Circuit over the last dozen years. MALDEF represents the plaintiffs, Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), in the case.

Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel, argued the case before the 11-judge en banc panel on March 21, 2011. Today's ruling comes as an en-banc decision – a previously ruled-upon case reheard by the panel of 11 circuit court judges – after MALDEF and co-counsel the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area successfully challenged the earlier 2-1 panel decision that upheld the ordinance.

On the ruling, Saenz stated, “Today's en banc Ninth Circuit opinion resoundingly vindicates the First Amendment rights of day laborers throughout the western United States. The dozens of similar ordinances throughout the region that purport to prevent day laborers from speaking on sidewalks are now even more plainly violative of the Constitution. Each municipality with such an ordinance should immediately suspend and repeal its law. The longstanding principle that the right of free speech belongs to everyone has been significantly bolstered by this decision.”

Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), stated, “Today's decision is an outcome of a struggle in the courts and in the streets that began in the early 90's. The ordinances were intended to render day laborers invisible; but the struggle against these ordinances has made day laborers more visible, more powerful. For the past two decades, the ordinances have stigmatized day laborers as criminals – now they are civil rights leaders. So this victory is not just for them; it is for every American – a victory achieved by humble people for everyone.”

Lateefah Simon, Lawyers' Committee Executive Director, stated, “This ruling should serve as a warning to other cities that seek to harass or arrest day laborers who are just trying to provide for their families.”

MALDEF originally filed this case in 2004. MALDEF has been defending the legal rights of day laborers in court for over 20 years.