(COPLEY NEWS SERVICE -- Wednesday, April 09, 2003)
A federal judge Monday ordered lawyers for Los Angeles International Airport and the state Hare Krishna organization to meet this week and try to settle a legal fight over new restrictions on solicitors in the terminals.
U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall made the "meet and confer" order after an hourlong debate over a lawsuit by the International Society of Krishna Consciousness of California that seeks to overturn a city law limiting solicitors to designated sections of LAX.
Marshall told both sides to notify her if they come to an agreement before she rules on the Krishna group's request for an order blocking enforcement of the law.
She told the lawyers to meet by Friday.
The law, which went into effect Dec. 16, requires charity representatives to remain in cordoned-off zones in all nine passenger terminals while seeking donations from travelers.
The Krishnas contend that the new law restricts solicitors to out-of-the-way locations in the terminals and limits free-speech rights.
The judge also told the lawyers to consider the effects of a pending appellate decision on an all-out ban on airport solicitations. Marshall found that law unconstitutional in 2001.
David Liberman, a lawyer for the Krishna group, offered a proposal in court that would allow Krishna representatives to speak with airport patrons within 50 feet of the booths but restrict them from accepting money anywhere except the booths.
John Werlich, an assistant Los Angeles city attorney representing LAX, rejected Liberman's proposal. "Not only are you trying to get the donation, but you're trying to get (travelers) to move to another spot," Werlich said.
"How many people do you think would actually come over and make a donation?" Marshall asked later.
Werlich acknowledged the number might be small but that the presence of solicitors causes congestion in the terminals and poses a safety risk.
"LAX does happen to be the No. 1 terrorism target in the state," Werlich told Marshall.
In his argument, Liberman pulled out a discount coupon he said was handed to him in the Tom Bradley International Terminal over the weekend encouraging him to shop at a duty-free store.
"Is that solicitation?" he asked. "How is that different in a fundamental sense?"
In January, Marshall approved a Krishna request to temporarily stop enforcement of the new law, but that order lapsed last month.
The Krishnas are now seeking a permanent injunction to stop enforcement.
Representatives of the Missionary Church of the Disciples of Jesus Christ, which also solicits at the airport, have joined the Krishna group's suit.
Publish Date:April 8, 2003
(Reprinted from here)