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Ruling Aids Day Laborers

Times Staff Writer

A federal judge has struck down a Glendale city law that barred day laborers from soliciting work at curbsides.

In his 11-page ruling issued Monday, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero said that the word “curb,” which is not defined in the law, “is too vague for the purpose of enforcing the statute.” He also said that the city’s ordinance “is likely to chill permissible speech.”

Glendale Assistant City Atty. Ann Maurer said she was disappointed by the ruling. The city has not decided if it will appeal.

Maurer said that Glendale stopped enforcing its ordinance in 2000 after a judge struck down a similar law in Los Angeles County. But she said there have been increasing complaints from residents and business owners about loitering, littering, public urination and trespassing, which prompted the city to amend the law last year so it could be enforced.

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The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in turn filed a lawsuit on behalf of a group of laborers. MALDEF attorney Thomas Saenz said he believed the city’s ordinance and similar labor solicitation laws are discriminatory in their application and enforcement.

“We think the judge made the right decision,” Saenz said. “All of these laws are laws that prohibit free speech in an unconstitutional way and target a specific group.”

Other Southern California cities are also wrestling with the day laborer issue. Last week a federal appeals panel denied a request by Redondo Beach to enforce a similar loitering ordinance. “That is extremely disappointing,” said Redondo Beach City Atty. Jerry Goddard. “I get numerous calls every week from residents who complain about groups of 40 to 60 men” standing around and impeding traffic.

In April, the Costa Mesa City Council voted to push back the proposed closure date of a job center until Sept. 30 after supporters lauded it as a model for such facilities. But opponents said the center, which opened in 1988, draws illegal immigrants, encourages unlawful employment and cheats the government out of tax revenue.

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