Federal Judge Denies City’s Motion for Summary Judgment on Majority of Claims

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Brandon Hensler, Director of Communications, (786) 363-2700 or media@aclufl.org

ORLANDO, Fla. – A federal judge in Orlando refused to grant summary judgment on four of six counts in the highly publicized “Orlando Homeless Feeding” case, clearing the way for trial this June, according to an Order issued late yesterday. The ACLU of Florida filed the lawsuit against the City of Orlando in October 2006 on behalf of a church and an activist group that feed the homeless and hungry in downtown public parks. The suit charges that the City’s ordinance restricting food sharing in the parks violates Florida’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the First Amendment and other constitutional rights of those who provide food to homeless persons in downtown Orlando.

The City of Orlando’s ordinance limits groups to two permits per year for purposes of sharing food with homeless groups within two miles of City Hall. The two-mile area encompasses the downtown parks, including the Lake Eola area where groups often serve food to the homeless.

“This is an early victory for those helping the homeless and hungry in downtown Orlando, and we are confident that the testimony at trial of Pastor Brian Nichols and others who share food in the parks will demonstrate the absurdity of the City’s discriminatory ordinance at trial,” said Glenn Katon, Director of the ACLU of Florida’s Central Region Office and co-counsel to the Plaintiffs. “Based upon the judge’s questioning at last week’s hearing on the City’s motion and the court’s order denying the motion, the City is going to have a very difficult time defending this law.”

U.S. District Judge Gregory A. Presnell will preside over the trial, which is set for June 23, 2008 at 9:00AM in Orlando.

Plaintiffs in First Vagabonds Church of God et al v. City of Orlando include the First Vagabonds Church of God, Orlando Food Not Bombs and several named individuals. Attorneys for the case are Glenn Katon and ACLU cooperating attorney Jacqueline Dowd, Esq.

View the judge's Order online at: http://www.aclufl.org/pdfs/OrlandoHomeless_SummaryJudgment.pdf

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida is freedom's watchdog, working daily in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend individual rights and personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For additional information, visit our Web site at: www.aclufl.org.

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