St. Tammany Parish panhandling laws unconstitutional, unfair, attorney says

By Claudia Balthazar | Dec 10, 2018

St. Tammany Parish panhandling laws are being questioned by a Slidell resident who is asking a federal judge to declare parish ordinances unconstitutional in a lawsuit naming the parish government, Parish President Pat Brister and Sheriff Randy Smith.

Slidell resident Tammy Pudas is suing because deputies issued her a citation for soliciting on a public highway then turned around and charged her with peddling without a permit, a recent posing on nola.com said.

New Orleans attorney John Adcock is backing Pudas in the case and filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on Oct. 26, the posting said.

“We are requesting the judge declare that the law is unconstitutional according to the First Amendment and prevent the parish from citing people for it in the future,” Adcock told the Louisiana Record. “There are any number of ways the parish can regulate the selling of goods or asking for things of value consistent with the First Amendment.”

Adcock said it is unfair to make a citizen fill out complicated permits in order to ask for money on the highway but allow nonprofit organizations to do the same thing without going through the same process.

“The First Amendment protects unpopular speech and expression as much as it does conventional wisdom,” Adcock said.

Last year, a federal judge said it is unconstitutional for the city of Slidell to require panhandlers to obtain a license from the police department, the posting on nola.com said.

Now, Adcock on the behalf of Pudas, is saying that her situation should be ruled the same.

“This law is unconstitutional because it allows several categories of people to sell goods or ask for things of value without a permit while criminalizing other categories of people doing the same thing,” Adcock said.

The attorney pointed out the current local government ordinances is a type of discrimination. 

“The Supreme Court says that a law cannot discriminate based on the content of someone's speech,” Adcock said. “When a local government is allowed to curtail the free speech rights of groups of people because they do not like what they say or how they look, they violate the First Amendment.”

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