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Service Employees International Union, Local 3 v. Municipality of Mt. Lebanon

April 28, 2006

SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION, LOCAL 3; RACHEL CANNING; VELVET HAZARD, APPELLANTS
v.
MUNICIPALITY OF MT. LEBANON



On Appeal From the United States District Court For the Western District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Civil Action No. 04-cv-01651) District Judge: Hon. Arthur J. Schwab.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stapleton, Circuit Judge

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued December 13, 2005

BEFORE: SLOVITER, SMITH and STAPLETON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION OF THE COURT

The Municipality of Mt. Lebanon ("Mt. Lebanon"), by ordinance, requires door-to-door canvassers who plan to "hand pamphlets or other written material" to residents or discuss with them "issues of public or religious interest" to first register with the police department. We conclude that this ordinance violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments' guarantee that no State shall abridge the freedom of speech.

I.

The plaintiffs are a local labor organization, Service Employees International Union, Local #3, and two volunteers, Rachel Canning and Velvet Hazard (collectively, "SEIU"), who were involved in a get-out-the-vote campaign preceding the 2004 presidential election. SEIU recruited over 1,000 volunteers to go door-to-door in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, including in Mt. Lebanon, to emphasize the importance of the election, to encourage people to vote, and to help them locate their assigned polling places.

The defendant, Mt. Lebanon, is one of a number of municipalities in Allegheny County that regulate door-to-door canvassing and solicitation. Part 3 of Mt. Lebanon's municipal code regulates those who "solicit" and "canvass" in Mt. Lebanon. It provides, in pertinent part:

§ 302 Permit Required. It shall be unlawful for any Person to Solicit in the Municipality without first obtaining a permit therefor as provided in this Part 3. It shall be unlawful for any Person to Canvass in the Municipality without first registering with the Police Department as provided in this Part 3.

§ 303 Definitions. . . .

***

Canvass:

To go from door-to-door in the Municipality, other than to "solicit" as defined in this Part 3, to hand pamphlets or other written material to an occupant of a residence, or to discuss with such occupant issues of public or religious interest.

***

Solicit:

To go from door to door in the Municipality (i) soliciting contributions or pledges for contributions, or (ii) selling or attempting to sell subscriptions, products or services, or taking orders or attempting to take orders for subscriptions, products or services from or to an occupant of a residence.

App. at 38. Section 316 provides that to register as a "Canvasser" with the police department, individuals must present photo identification and ...


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