The ACLU of Indiana announced Thursday it has filed lawsuits against the town of Yorktown and the city of Jeffersonville because their ordinances regulating the activities of door-to-door canvassers violate the right to free expression under the U.S. Constitution.
The lawsuits were filed on behalf of the Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, a nonprofit dedicated to issues such as health care, political participation and environmental well-being. The organization routinely uses canvassing in residential neighborhoods to reach out to residents.
Yorktown and Jeffersonville passed ordinances last year that require canvassers to go through “lengthy and cost-prohibitive licensing procedures before soliciting door-to-door in those communities,” the ACLU of Indiana says in a press release.
The ordinances restrict canvassing activity to certain hours and allow a license action to be denied at the discretion of government officials. Those fees and directives violate the First Amendment, says ACLU of Indiana staff attorney Gavin M. Rose.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized the importance of residential canvassing in ensuring a robust debate on public issues," Rose said. “The First Amendment does not permit the government to curtail this activity in the manner chosen by both Yorktown and Jeffersonville simply because canvassers also ask for voluntary donations.”
Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana Inc v. Town of Yorktown, 1:12-CV-422, was filed in the Indianapolis Division of the Southern District of Indiana. The case has been referred to Magistrate Judge Denise K. LaRue. Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana v. City of Jeffersonville, 4:13-CV-38, was filed in the New Albany Division and referred to Magistrate Judge William G. Hussmann Jr.
The lawsuits seek a preliminary injunction and later permanent injunction enjoining the enforcement of the ordinances.
William Groth of Fillenwarth Dennerline Groth & Towne LLP and Jennifer Washburn of Citizens Action Coalition are assisting the ACLU of Indiana in both cases.