Katie Hoeppner, (505) 266-5915 x1013 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Micah McCoy, (505) 266-5915 x1003 or email@example.com
ALBUQUERQUE, NM — Yesterday, a United States District Court judge signed a stipulated order, sanctioning the City of Albuquerque for violating a February court order to not enforce an ordinance restricting speech on medians, freeway entrances, and exit ramps while litigation about the ordinance was ongoing. In the five months since agreeing not to cite anyone pursuant to the ordinance, the Albuquerque Police Department violated the order at least 10 times.
To rectify its wrongdoing, the City has agreed to pay $7,500 to Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless, a non-profit organization that provides healthcare services to Albuquerque’s homeless population.
“We’re pleased that the City has acknowledged its wrongdoing and has made an attempt to make reparations,” said ACLU of New Mexico staff attorney Maria Sanchez. “This is a step in the right direction. Now, the City must recognize once and for all that it cannot cite or arrest its way out of a problem with homelessness and poverty.”
The ACLU of New Mexico and Goodwin Procter LLP first filed a lawsuit against the City on January 11, 2018, alleging that the ordinance was an unconstitutional attempt to eliminate panhandling by criminalizing speech in public areas where solicitation is common.
“Our community is struggling to come to terms with the fact that some of our neighbors live and survive in public space. We all want to find lasting solutions for our city’s most vulnerable people, but citing and arresting them in violation of their free speech rights is not okay and does nothing to address the underlying causes of homelessness and poverty,” said Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless Executive Director Jennifer L. Metzler. “We’re encouraged that the City and the plaintiffs have come to some resolution through this voluntary sanction and that it’s a sign that the City and APD are ready to consider higher impact solutions.”
The City has dismissed all citations wrongfully submitted under the ordinance and has once again directed all APD officers not to enforce the ordinance while litigation proceeds.