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Oklahoma City must pay nearly $1M over panhandling lawsuit

August 26, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 31, 2020 file photo, John Murphy offers water for sale in the median of an Oklahoma City street in Oklahoma City. A federal judge is ordering Oklahoma City to pay nearly $1 million to attorneys who successfully challenged an anti-panhandling ordinance adopted by the city. U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton issued his order in the case this week. A federal appeals court determined in 2020 that the ordinance placing restrictions on panhandling on street medians is an unconstitutional violation of free speech.(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 31, 2020 file photo, John Murphy offers water for sale in the median of an Oklahoma City street in Oklahoma City. A federal judge is ordering Oklahoma City to pay nearly $1 million to attorneys who successfully challenged an anti-panhandling ordinance adopted by the city. U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton issued his order in the case this week. A federal appeals court determined in 2020 that the ordinance placing restrictions on panhandling on street medians is an unconstitutional violation of free speech.(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 31, 2020 file photo, John Murphy offers water for sale in the median of an Oklahoma City street in Oklahoma City. A federal judge is ordering Oklahoma City to pay nearly $1 million to attorneys who successfully challenged an anti-panhandling ordinance adopted by the city. U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton issued his order in the case this week. A federal appeals court determined in 2020 that the ordinance placing restrictions on panhandling on street medians is an unconstitutional violation of free speech.(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City must pay nearly $1 million to five attorneys who successfully challenged an anti-panhandling ordinance adopted by the city, a federal judge ruled this week.

U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton issued the order approving 2,474 billable hours that attorneys spent on the case for a total of $986,350.

A federal appeals court determined in 2020 that the ordinance placing restrictions on panhandling on street medians is an unconstitutional violation of free speech. Plaintiffs included two homeless men who used the medians to panhandle, including one who sold issues of the Curbside Chronicle newspaper, two joggers, a journalist and a community activist who has used medians to protest and erect signs for his legislative candidacy.

Several attorneys for the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union were among those who represented the plaintiffs.

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“We hope this fee amount will deter Oklahoma City from violating the constitutional rights of Oklahomans and encourage them to consider the concerns of the community in the future,” Megan Lambert, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Oklahoma, said in a statement. “We will continue our fight for the free speech rights of all Oklahomans.”

A spokeswoman for the city didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the judge’s order, but city officials have said previously the ordinance was adopted as a public safety measure.