Downtown ban sparks lawsuit
A retired Medford couple has filed a lawsuit against the city claiming the recent ordinance that gives police authority to ban troublemakers from downtown is unconstitutional.
Local lawyer Bill Mansfield previously warned the council he'd be filing the lawsuit because he thinks someone should receive due process before being banned.
"I said I was going to file it, and I had every intention of doing so," he said.
Mansfield represents Gary and Patricia Pound, who he says are local residents who don't support the city's position. The Pounds could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The council's ordinance, approved May 4, allows police to ban someone in the town center for a number of offenses, including drunkenness, sex offenses, criminal mischief, graffiti, failure to control dangerous dogs, public urination, harassment, menacing and theft. Sleeping or camping in the downtown wouldn’t trigger the exclusion.
Mansfield said the ordinance violates free speech, free association and the right to travel and movement, referring to both the U.S. and Oregon constitutions.
"They (the city) are also making the mistake of banishing the people before a due process hearing," Mansfield said. "That was a real mistake on the part of the drafters." He said the "mistake" violates the due process clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Mansfield has filed a similar lawsuit against the city of Ashland and is planning to file one against the city of Talent if it approves a similar ordinance.
He said the Pounds haven't been excluded from downtown but should still have legal standing to pursue the lawsuit against the city for a number of reasons, including that they live in Medford, Mansfield said.
Medford police say they haven't yet excluded anyone from downtown under the new ordinance, though they did exclude someone from Alba Park recently. The new exclusion zone is similar to one that already existed for city parks, where violators of local laws can be banned for up to 180 days. About 100 people are excluded from Medford parks under the previous ordinance.
When the council approved the downtown exclusion zone, some councilors and audience members were concerned that it is directly targeting the homeless, who have been hanging out in Alba Park.
Downtown business owners have expressed concern about the large presence of homeless people, as well as drunken behavior.
Mansfield's suit doesn't mention the homeless issue, and other councilors have taken pains to point out that the ordinance doesn't mention the homeless.
Councilor Kevin Stine, who joined Councilor Kay Brooks in voting against the exclusion ordinance, said, "We cannot comment on any pending legal matters."
— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email@example.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.