Author: Collin L. Ryan, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review
Springfield, Illinois enacted an ordinance that prohibits panhandling within the city’s downtown historical district—an area that comprises “less than 2% of the City’s area but contain[s] its principal shopping, entertainment, and governmental areas, including the Statehouse and many state-government buildings.” “The ordinance defines panhandling, in pertinent part, as [a]ny solicitation made in person . . . in which a person requests an immediate donation of money or other gratuity.” The ordinance does, however, permit the use of signs with written requests for donations, as well as requests for donations at a later time.
Plaintiffs, the recipients of citations for violating the ordinance, sought a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of the ordinance. When considering whether to grant or deny a preliminary injunction, a court must consider, among other factors, whether plaintiffs are “likely to succeed on the merits.” Here, the question of the plaintiffs’ “likely success on the merits” hinged upon the distinction between content-neutral and content-based restrictions on free speech.