Suit: Houston's anti-food sharing ordinance 'unconstitutionally vague'

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Dec. 27, 2012, 4:36pm

HOUSTON - A Harris County man and his teenage children have filed suit against the city of Houston to challenge one of its ordinances.

In a lawsuit filed Dec. 21 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas, Paul Kubosh argues the city's Anti-Food Sharing Ordinance violates his and his children's constitutional rights.

Houston City Council outlawed feeding homeless people anywhere in Houston without permission of the property owner. The property restriction does not apply to the feeding of five or fewer people.

Mayor Annise Parker unveiled the plan with the announced intention of guaranteeing the safety of food served to the homeless and to channel charity to the places where it could do the most good, according to a report by the Houston Chronicle.

The plaintiffs are members of Champions Forest Baptist Church and have given and shared food for free "with more than five people at a time on Houston public property" since about 2008.

According to the suit, the city passed the ordinance about six months ago and was not open to efforts to get it placed on the previous election's ballot.

More than 34,000 people signed a petition in opposition of the ordinance, however, the city was not swayed, the original petition says.

The ordinance carries a jail sentence and a $200 fine for any violations.

The suit claims the ordinance is "unconstitutionally vague", stating the term "those in need" has no clear definition and "in its broadest sense can refer to anyone."

It additionally asserts that the complainants' First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were infringed upon through the passing and implementation of the ordinance.

A jury trial is requested.

Attorney Randall L. Kallinen with the Law Office of Randall L. Kallinen PLLC in Houston is representing the plaintiffs.

Case No. 4:12-CV-3700

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