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Herndon Anti-Solicitation Ordinance Upheld

Judge cites existence of labor site as "strong reason" for ruling.

Herndon's local anti-solicitation ordinance survived its first challenge Wednesday afternoon after a Fairfax County General District Court judge upheld the ordinance's constitutionality when she ruled a Reston resident guilty of violating it.

Defendant Stephen Thomas, who was arrested by the Herndon Police Department for violation of the ordinance on Elden Street on Sept. 16 was found guilty of the Class II misdemeanor and fined $100. Thomas was cited by Herndon Police after he allegedly asked a man at Herndon's 7-Eleven at Alabama Street and Elden Street for help doing yard work, according to court records. It was not immediately known if he planned to appeal the decision.

Thomas's attorneys of the Fairfax-based law firm Leffler & Hyland argued that Thomas was in the legal right to solicit for workers on the street, as his right to free speech by the first ammendment.

Judge Lorraine Nordlund, in a 25-minute ruling, stated that the ordinance met constitutional free speech requirements in that it was narrow enough as to not impede broad free speech, reflected needs for secondary public safety effects and that the speech was still legally regulated at the town's organized day labor site.

"The very fact that [the day labor site] exists could be one of the strongest reasons for upholding this ordinance," Nordlund said at the conclusion of her ruling. "If it was not for the town's [day labor] center, I would have had to strike this ordinance."

Members of Herndon's Town Council and the mayor have repeatedly stated that they would like to remove the current day labor site in Herndon and replace it with one that would check for valid worker authorization status.

Herndon Mayor Steve DeBenedittis and Town Council member David Kirby, who were both present at the hearing, could not be reached for comment at the time.

[See the next issue of the Herndon Connection for more details.]