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The legal challenge to St. Petersburg's restrictive homeless laws continues

ST. PETERSBURG — The legal groups that represent several homeless people suing St. Petersburg over its restrictive homeless laws have decided to keep fighting.

The legal groups filed a notice Thursday that they will appeal a March 11 decision by federal Judge Steven Merryday that upheld the city's right to arrest people for sleeping during the day on sidewalks and for storing personal property on public land. Merryday also supported the city's right to ban people from city property if they had committed crimes there before.

Three weeks after Merryday's decision, the plaintiffs dropped the remaining two allegations, a move that they suggested was made so that they could sooner appeal Merryday's earlier decision. Confirmation of that came with Thursday's notice of appeal to have the case tried in the U.S. Court of Appeals' 11th Circuit.

Representatives from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty in Washington, and the Southern Legal Counsel and the Florida Institutional Legal Services in Gainesville, could not be reached Thursday.

Mayor Bill Foster said the appeal will delay any moves he plans to aid the homeless. He has said City Attorney John Wolfe warned him and the City Council not to discuss the case or the homeless issue in general.

"I have a pretty good plan to implement that will actually provide more assistance to those that want help," Foster said. "But as long as I'm being sued by people who don't want help, that has an impact on that. It's unfortunate."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or [email protected]

The legal challenge to St. Petersburg's restrictive homeless laws continues 04/29/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 29, 2010 11:29pm]
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