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LANDOW, et al v. CITY OF FORT COLLINS - CURRENT STATUS

(Last Updated June 12, 2015)

This will be the last update posted for this lawsuit since it was settled and dismissed with prejudice in April 2015.

The City of Fort Collins has reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit involving the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Colorado (ACLU) regarding the City’s panhandling ordinance.

The settlement includes the following terms:

  • To file a joint motion with the court asking it to enjoin the City from enforcing its panhandling ordinance against persons who are solely “passive panhandling;” defined to mean persons “passively standing or sitting with a sign or other indication that they are seeking donations, without addressing their solicitations to any specific person, other than in response to an inquiry by that person.”
  • The City agrees, during the next two years, to provide the ACLU with written notice 45 days before the Council considers adoption of another panhandling ordinance and the City agrees that any such ordinance adopted will not go into effect any sooner than 60 days after its adoption.
  • The City will pay $100 to each of the three plaintiffs seeking nominal damages in the lawsuit.
  • The City will pay the ACLU $82,500 for the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and costs.

It is expected that all of the necessary settlement documents will soon be filed with the court and that the court will shortly thereafter dismiss the lawsuit.

“The City is pleased to be able to settle this case in a prudent manner at this time,” said City Attorney Carrie Daggett. “The City will continue to address panhandling-related issues as needed in the future in order to best serve all of Fort Collins’ residents and businesses.” 

The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Feb. 10, 2015, by the ACLU on behalf of several plaintiffs, challenged certain provisions of the City’s panhandling ordinance (City Code Section 17-127) and its enforcement. In the lawsuit, the ACLU asked the court to declare under the First Amendment 7 of the 11 provisions in the City’s panhandling ordinance unconstitutional. The City’s ordinance does not prohibit panhandling, only certain forms of aggressive panhandling.  The ACLU has also asked the court to enjoin the City from enforcing its ordinance against what the ACLU has described as “passive panhandling.”

In response to this lawsuit, On Feb. 27, 2015, the Fort Collins City Council repealed part of the City’s panhandling ordinance, leaving in place certain provisions that involve aggressive behavior. The City Council did so to allow time to review the challenged provisions and to conduct public outreach to later determine what, if any, panhandling provisions should be considered for future adoption by the City Council. 

City Council removed seven of 11 provisions in City Code that address certain kinds of aggressive panhandling. The provisions of the Ordinance remaining in place prohibit:

  • Intimidating, threatening, coercive or obscene panhandling conduct that causes the subject to reasonably fear for his or her safety
  • Panhandling using fighting words
  • Knowingly touching or grabbing the person solicited
  • Panhandling in a manner that obstructs the passage of the person or requires him or her to take evasive action to avoid physical contact

The four provisions in the City’s panhandling ordinance not repealed and not challenged by the ACLU, continue to prohibit certain forms of aggressive panhandling.