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Thursday, March 13, 2014 12:01 am


The most famous panhandlers in Springfield will have their day in court, but they’ll have to go to Chicago to do it. Don Norton and Karen Otterson of Springfield sued the City of Springfield in September 2013 on behalf of all panhandlers in the city, saying the city’s ordinance banning panhandling by vocal appeal in the city’s downtown is an unconstitutional limit on free speech. Their request for a preliminary injunction against the city’s ordinance was denied by federal judge Richard Mills in Springfield, so they asked the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to weigh in. Although Matthew Trapp, an attorney for the City of Springfield, told the appellate court oral arguments were not needed to present the case because none of the facts are in dispute, Weinberg disagreed and asked that the court allow both sides to present their cases in person instead of merely through documents. The court sided with Weinberg and the panhandlers, setting oral arguments for April 2 in Chicago. Norton and Otterson plan to make the trek to the Windy City, along with some of their supporters. While the oral arguments are only scheduled to last 15 minutes per side, the presence of the panhandlers themselves might just sway the three-justice panel to allow an injunction that would pause enforcement of the city’s panhandling ban until the free speech question is decided.

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