Park Ban Against Homeless Advocate Constitutional

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By Patrick Gregory

Aug. 17 — A “trespass warning” that banned a minister and homeless advocate from entering a city park wasn't unconstitutional, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held Aug. 15 ( Wright v. City of St. Petersburg, 2016 BL 263290, 11th Cir., No. 15-10315, 8/15/16 ).

Bruce Wright's First Amendment rights weren't violated because any burden on his speech from the one-year ban was incidental, and he was still allowed to enter sidewalks near the park, the decision by Chief Judge Ed Carnes found.

Wright received the ban under a city ordinance, after he “obstructed a police investigation and resisted arrest.”

Ministerial Outreach Hindered

Wright argued that the ordinance hindered his ministerial outreach.

But the U.S. Supreme Court found that First Amendment scrutiny of a law isn't “justified just because the law has an incidental effect of burdening protected speech,” in Arcara v. Cloud Books, Inc., 478 U.S. 697 (1986) .

Here, the burden was incidental because the ordinance applies even to those who aren't exercising their First Amendment rights, such as runners and “picnic-lunchers.”

Judge Jill A. Pryor and District Judge Danny C. Reeves, sitting by designation from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, joined the decision.

Southern Legal Counsel Inc. and Florida Institutional Legal Services Inc. represented Wright.

The city attorney's office represented the city.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick L. Gregory in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at and Jeffrey D. Koelemay at

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