UPDATE: ACLU Sues Wins Lawsuit on Behalf of Homeless Couple Forced Out of Town with Fake Laws

Brandy_Orchard_Edward_Gillespie.jpg
Brandalyn Orchard and Edward Gillespie | Courtesy ACLU

Early this fall, Brandalyn Orchard and Edward Gillespie were on the road again. The couple, who are homeless, make their way around the state by hitchhiking and found themselves at an intersection near the outskirts of the tiny town of Miner (population 979). There, they took out a simple sign.

"Traveling. Anything helps. God Bless."

While hitchhikers and panhandlers are not a uncommon sight in many cities, the Miner police department apparently took exception. What happened next lead to a lawsuit filed on the couple's behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri.

This story has been updated with the result of the lawsuit. Continue below.

See also: Court Rules Arnold's Red-Light Camera Ordinance Unconstitutional

According to the lawsuit, filed earlier this week, a Miner police officer approached the couple and told them they were breaking city law. When Orchard and Gillespie asked which law specifically, the officer left and came back with copies of three highlighted laws, saying "VAGRANCY," "BEGGING ETC." and "LOITERING" were all illegal in Miner. After a second officer joined the scene, the couple allege they were told they'd be arrested if they didn't leave town in five minutes. Orchard and Gillespie obliged.

Realizing something didn't feel right, the couple contacted the ACLU.

"Anybody can contact us," says Diane Balogh, spokeswoman for the ACLU of Missouri. "They're Missouri residents who felt their constitutional rights were violated."

UPDATE, October 15, 2014: Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr. entered a consent judgment against the city of Miner for its unconstitutional ordinances and ordered the city to pay both Orchard and Gillespie $2,500 each. The city will also pay their lawyers fees, valued at $4,316.

"Bullying is never good, but it is especially bad when done by our government and directed at those who might lack the resources to defend their rights," said Jeffrey A. Mittman, the ACLU of Missouri's executive director. "Being homeless or poor doesn't strip you of your constitutional rights and it is the role of the ACLU to step in and be a voice for those who may feel powerless to challenge the government."

Our original story continues below.

Attorneys for the group contacted the city of Miner asking for copies of the ordinances that had been used to run the couple out of town. According to the suit, their request got a surprising response.

"On October 17, 2013, Danielle Patrick, in her capacity as City Clerk for City of
Miner, responded in writing: 'At this time the City of Miner does not have any
policies or ordinances relating to begging, loitering, or vagrancy,'" the filing states.

"There are two violations -- the most egregious is the police were trying to enforce laws that aren't on their books and then the other is a free speech right," says Balogh. "Just because they're homeless doesn't mean they lose their free speech right. All they were doing was holding up a sign."

The lawsuit is asking for an injunction preventing the Miner police from enforcing these (apparently nonexistent?) laws and asks for damages for the couple.

Daily RFT reached out to Miner city clerk Patrick for clarification on the existence of these laws, but she would not comment.

Read the full lawsuit below:

ACLU Miner Lawsuit Homeless Couple

Follow Jessica Lussenhop on Twitter at @Lussenpop. E-mail the author at Jessica.Lussenhop@RiverfrontTimes.com.



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17 comments
mz_butterfly_hair
mz_butterfly_hair

People who work hard are really sick and tired of this bum mentality.

I see this day in and day out where I live. The same people have been in the same spots, some for YEARS.

A man in our area sued the police for the same kind of thing, I don't know if he got any money, but in the news article he said....*I am on a fixed income and this money is supplemental for the things I NEED*

He was obviously drinking, slurring and stumbling over his words and giggled when he said he didn't drink or do drugs.

These same people in this article, have open facebook pages. They have pictures of marijuana, tell their stories of the money they were *kicked down*, show the pot and beer and whiskey they were using, to them, this is their lifestyle.

The don't want a job, will not get a job and continue to be a blight and a drain on society. They are lazy and do not want to work, obey normal rules and they don't want responsibilities, they want everyone to pay their way.

I for one, and I am not alone, am sick to death of this mentality and way of life.

The ACLU *can* do some good, but when they defend this type of BS, it isn't doing anyone any good.

These people say....we have a right to be homeless...well....be homeless....but support yourselves, stop asking hard working people for their hard earned money, learn to value the money you obtain by working hard for it and earning it.

I am disgusted at the entitlement syndrome that so many in this country have.

Tim Bodine
Tim Bodine

The real tragedy here is the lawyers got almost double what the victims were awarded.

Paul Pittman
Paul Pittman

Good hope they got enough to buy a house right in the middle of town.

Twana Wangler
Twana Wangler

Miner is a minuscule town full of hillbillies, not too far off of Mayberry RFD. Andy couldn't always control Barney.

Stephanie Mondaine
Stephanie Mondaine

Well hell I could have sued the police many of times without even realising it. Police officers do this type of thing to people all the time

Mary Mahurin
Mary Mahurin

Wow didn't you run an early article from the Police Union claiming they were no longer going to stand in the shadows and let their profession by besmirched? Come out an explain this self righteous criminality! Police break the law and make them up as they go along and somehow they are the victims.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

Police routinely make up laws to avoid potential troubling situations. If the citizens decides to follow the advice and move along, the situation is averted. No harm, no foul.
 

The lawsuit should be tossed. The couple moved along. Their rights were not violated. They were not "forced" to stop. They were given a suggestion to stop. Had they been arrested, detained, or physically denied their right to pander in public, then a lawsuit comes into play. But two citizens following the advice of a police officer, even if the officer is wrong, well, this is not news or a cause for a lawsuit.

It is a cause for the city to educate their police force, but nothing more.

Joshua Rodgers
Joshua Rodgers

That headline is so wrong! what the hell kind of a publicist let you talk like that? f*** you and your thoughts Riverfront Times

Trista DiGiuseppi
Trista DiGiuseppi

Article typo: It's spelled "led" not "lead". The latter is a naturally occurring metal found in small amounts in the Earth's crust.

Liz Kaucher
Liz Kaucher

I bet I could solve all of your problems in 3 words too.

wrknhrd4u
wrknhrd4u

@JamesMadison They moved along because they didnt want to get arrested. People like you are americas problem. We are going to send the criminal republiconmen packing in november and take america back from anti american morons like you!

wrknhrd4u
wrknhrd4u

Fuck you joshua!! Stop embarrassing yourself and your family. People like you are americas problem.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

@wrknhrd4u,  Is it the police penalized here? No. It is the taxpayer. Everyone ends up paying more. That is not fair to the little grandmother living on a small pension check to pay for what was not an issue in this particular case. One policeman asking two people to move along is hardly a just cause for a large payment from the taxpayers pockets. It is an instance where the police need to be educated - read my post again. Once educated, if the pattern remains, the police should be removed from their position of authority on a case by case basis. Why penalize the taxpayer? The taxpayer is innocent. The taxpayer has no authority to correct the problem. Yet you wish the taxpayer to be responsible? You are making a far greater problem by penalizing the innocent.

Furthermore, trying to politicize this into Demo-GOP terms is idiotic. If you represent the typical Democrat wanting to rob wage-earning  taxpayers to give to people who just want to panhandle, well, the Democrats will have a far greater problem to deal with when people realize they do not have to work to earn a living. Congratulations.

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