Door-to-door canvassing and the First Amendment
canvasserNov 24, 2009: City ordinances aim to curb door-to-door sales

COLUMBUS -- "Changes are being prompted by increasing complaints from residents about aggressive people on their doorsteps. Mayor Tom Strickland of Machesney Park, Ill., says the economy 'has a lot to do with' an influx of sales crews from out of state... Strickland prefers a total ban on door-to-door sales, but worries that would invite lawsuits. He's probably right, says Dan Kobil, a constitutional law professor at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio. He has sued communities with anti-soliciting rules for Ohio Citizen Action, a consumer advocacy group that canvasses door-to-door. The Supreme Court has ruled that 'going door-to-door to communicate a message' is a First Amendment right, Kobil says, and ordinances that 'try to license speech are inherently suspect under our Constitution,'" Judy Keen, USA Today.

Oct 15, 2009: Unneighborly
Bans on door-to-door appeals are overreaction to a small annoyance

neighbor COLUMBUS -- "Officials in Canal Winchester and Bexley are discussing 'Do Not Knock' ordinances, which in effect would ban door-to-door solicitation by allowing residents to sign up for registries modeled after the Do Not Call list for telemarketers. This has been done elsewhere recently, most notably in the Cleveland suburbs of Parma, Seven Hills, North Olmsted and North Royalton. The attempt to minimize inconveniences and unpleasantness for residents is understandable, but it seems like an overreaction. People just as easily could hang a 'No Soliciting' sign on their doors or simply not answer their doors. This is a different situation than a salesperson tying up one's telephone line. By keeping all salespeople and canvassers from knocking on doors, by threat of fine, residents cut themselves off from a time-honored part of the community," editorial, Columbus Dispatch.

May 14, 2009: Advocacy group sues village over canvassing law
Ohio Citizen Action claims discrimination


CANAL WINCHESTER -- "The nonpartisan advocacy group Ohio Citizen Action has accused Canal Winchester of violating free-speech rights with a law that requires annual licenses and background checks for some canvassers. In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ohio Citizen Action says it is being singled out because of its liberal politics. The nonprofit group speaks out on behalf of the environment and against political corruption and collects money to promote its causes. 'They just don't like our politics,' said Daniel T. Kobil, an attorney for Ohio Citizen Action. 'This is license for the government to pick and choose the people they want,'" Elizabeth Gibson, Columbus Dispatch.

Apr 28, 2009: Ohio Citizen Action files First Amendment lawsuit against Canal Winchester

CLEVELAND -- "Ohio Citizen Action filed a First Amendment lawsuit against Canal Winchester, Ohio, in federal court in Columbus on April 27, 2009. The case asks the court to declare the town's law restricting door-to-door canvassing unconstitutional. Attorneys Edward Icove and Daniel Kobil are representing Ohio Citizen Action. The case was assigned to Judge Algenon Marbley in U.S.District Court," Ohio Citizen Action. May 20, 2006: Stickers in Parma tell peddlers to move on

PARMA -- "Sandy Buchanan, Ohio Citizen Action executive director, said that while the group's canvassers go door-to-door to offer information, they also ask residents to join the group and pay a membership fee. Buchanan said Parma's law could unfairly lump her nonprofit with those selling goods or raising money. Many residents who do not want to be bothered with door-to-door sales are interested in hearing about environmental issues, Buchanan said. 'We think it's very important for cities to think about that distinction,' Buchanan said. 'We will definitely be looking at" the Parma law,'" Kaye Spector, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Jul 29, 2005:  Englewood sued over solicitation restriction
Group sues for right to knock on doors later than 6 p.m.

ENGLEWOOD -- "A state environmental group has sued Englewood, claiming a city's ordinance that restricts door-to-door solicitation violates free speech. Englewood allows such solicitations between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day of the week. Anyone who violates the ordinance faces a $250 fine. But Ohio Citizens Action, the group that filed the suit, wants to knock on doors later than that. 'The whole premise of our organization is that we get out and talk to everybody,' said the group's president, Sandy Buchanan. 'Nobody is home before 6.' Englewood officials were confident they would prevail," Ryan Justin Fox, Dayton Daily News.

May 21, 2003:  Mentor-on-the-Lake can't limit group's canvassing, judge says

CLEVELAND -- "A federal judge yesterday ruled that Mentor-on-the-Lake placed unconstitutional restrictions on Ohio Citizen Action's canvassing in neighborhoods. U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent said in his opinion that Mentor-on-the-Lake's ordinance violated the group's rights to raise funds and of free speech. Nugent ruled that the city could not enforce the ordinance and ordered a hearing to determine damages. Sandy Buchanan, executive director of Ohio Citizen Action, called the decision significant and said it could have statewide ramifications in other cities that have also tried to limit the group's canvassing. 'The ruling could affect the rights of many nonprofit organizations who go door to door,' Buchanan said. . . . She said members want to canvass lakefront neighborhoods like Mentor-on-the-Lake that could be affected by a nuclear accident at Davis-Besse," Maggi Martin, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Full text of decision (44 KB pdf file).

CLEVELAND -- "Mentor-on-the-Lake; Anti-canvassing Law thrown out in federal court," Ohio News Network.

CLEVELAND -- "Judge tossed out ordinance," Associated Press.
May 20, 2003:  Federal judge upholds Ohio Citizen Action's right to canvass door-to-door

CLEVELAND -- "This Court finds that the Ordinance at issue is unconstitutional on its face, and that it has been applied to prevent Ohio Citizen Action from conducting lawful speech and fund-raising. Therefore, Plaintiffs Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and/or Partial Summary Judgment is granted," Judge Donald C. Nugent, memorandum opinion, Ohio Citizen Action v. City of Mentor-on-the-Lake, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division (44 KB pdf file).
Oct 10, 2002:  Insurance settles federal lawsuit in Archbold

ARCHBOLD -- ". . . the village last month dropped requirements that solicitors for nonprofit organizations who are not collecting money register with the village police department and that they carry picture identification. Last spring - in an attempt to settle the lawsuit filed in 2001 - Archbold modified its previous law, which was approved in 1994 so that: (1) Soliciting and canvassing were allowed from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. - five more hours than the previous ordinance listed, which allowed people to go door to door from noon to 7 p.m.; (2) The penalty for violations was reduced from a maximum $500 fine and six months jail to a maximum $100 fine per offense; and (3) The restriction that only "not-for-profit entities" could solicit or canvass was removed," Toledo Blade.
Jun 19, 2002:  The Supreme Court leaves individuals to say no thanks

WASHINGTON, DC -- "The Jehovah's Witnesses saw the threat to their proselytizing and to their First Amendment protection. The high court saw it, too. Writing for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens made a pointed observation: A resident can refuse to listen and can put up a no solicitation sign. A government shouldn't determine who speaks to whom," editorial, Akron Beacon Journal.
Jun 18, 2002:  High court backs canvassers' rights
Justices strike down law requiring permit

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Monday’s case turned in part on the notion of anonymity when speaking one’s mind. The court already has held that the Constitution gives people the right to anonymously distribute campaign literature. Monday’s ruling extends that right to door-to-door soliciting for other causes," Associated Press.

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Canvassing law nullified; High court invalidates permit requirement," Jack Torry, Columbus Dispatch.

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Solicitors don't need OK from City Hall," Tom Diemer, Elizabeth Auster, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Supreme Court ruling backs door-to-door solicitations; Free-speech rights top quest to shield residents," wire reports, Toledo Blade.

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Court strikes down curb on visits by Jehovah's Witnesses," Linda Greenhouse, New York Times.
Jun 17, 2002:  Door-to-door solicitors do not need prior permission, Court rules

Cesar Chavez (1927 - 1993), seen here in San Jose, CA,
was a relentless door-to-door canvasser.
Cesar Chavez canvassing
WASHINGTON, DC -- "In an 8-to-1 ruling, the Court declared that an anti-solicitation ordinance passed by the Village of Stratton [Ohio] was so broad that it violated the First Amendment's safeguards against free speech. . . 'It is offensive — not only to the values protected by the First Amendment, but to the very notion of a free society — that in the context of everyday public discourse a citizen must first inform the government of her desire to speak to her neighbors and then obtain a permit to do so,' Justice Stevens wrote," David Stout, New York Times.
Full text of Court opinion (.pdf).

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Supreme Court throws out law requiring permits for doorstep sales, proselytizing, " "Court said," "Dissented," "Doorstep proselytizing," Anne Gearan, Associated Press.

WASHINGTON, DC -- "U.S. Supreme Court: Ohio town cannot limit door-to-door solicitors," Bill Cohen, Ohio Public Radio.

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Religious solicitors free to knock; The justices protect the right of Jehovah's Witnesses and others to solicit door to door with no town permit," Christian Science Monitor.