Texas Newspapers File Suit Alleging Illegal Ticketing of Vendors

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(AP) Two newspapers have filed a federal lawsuit saying that League City police are illegally ticketing people who sell newspapers on city streets.

The Houston Chronicle and the Galveston County Daily News maintain in the lawsuit filed Thursday that the 2004 ordinance under which the city has ticketed the vendors is unconstitutional. It also alleges that League City is enforcing the ordinance selectively.

Interim City Administrator Mike Clawson declined to comment on the lawsuit.

This is the second lawsuit the newspapers have filed against the city since 2003 about street sales. In the first lawsuit, the city agreed to a permanent injunction prohibiting it from trying to prevent the newspaper sales, said Chronicle attorney Joel R. White.

“Now the city is at it again, ticketing and threatening the Chronicle’s vendors with arrest if they sell newspapers on public property,” White said.

He argues that the ordinance is selectively enforced “depending on whether (the city) approves of the entity doing the selling or solicitation.”

For example, the city allows firefighters and other groups to solicit charitable donations from passing cars but does not allow newspaper sales from roadway medians, White said.

The lawsuit alleges that the ordinance unconstitutionally requires people who want to exercise their First Amendment rights on public streets or by going door-to-door to register with the city secretary, pay a $30 fee and post a $1,000 bond.

The requirement illegally applies to people involved in religious and political activities, the newspapers said.

The lawsuit asks the court to declare the ordinance unconstitutional and order the city not to prosecute or threaten newspaper vendors.

No hearing date has been set.

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