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City May Appeal Court Ruling Voiding Fingerprint Requirement

February 06, 1992|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Glendale may appeal a court ruling issued Monday that struck down the city's requirement that solicitors for charities from outside then city be fingerprinted to obtain a permit.

Dennis H. Schuck, senior assistant city attorney, said the city may ask the state Supreme Court to review a suit filed more than five years ago that challenged Glendale's 1945 law as unconstitutional.

In a 3-0 ruling, the 2nd District Court of Appeal found that the city ordinance "has the constitutionally impermissible effect of chilling freedom of speech while failing in its purpose of deterring fraud."

The decision reversed rulings in two lower courts that upheld Glendale's right to fingerprint certain solicitors.

Fingerprinting is not required for fund-raisers representing local charities, canvassers who do not ask for money or door-to-door salespeople. The law originally was designed to protect residents from World War II-era bogus solicitors claiming to represent charities and veterans organizations.

Glendale will have a month to appeal after the decision becomes final Feb. 18.

The environmental group Greenpeace, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, challenged the law in 1986, charging that it violates state and federal constitutional rights of privacy, equal protection and freedom of speech.

Greenpeace attorney Dean Hansell argued that members of his group and others feared the prints could be used by law enforcement officials to target them for surveillance.

Schuck said Tuesday that the court ruling does not invalidate Glendale's law, but it could require changes such as requiring fingerprints from all solicitors, including those collecting for local charities.

Glendale apparently is the only city in the state that has a fingerprinting rule for solicitors. The California Supreme Court in 1986 ruled that the Department of Motor Vehicles could require fingerprinting as a valid way to guard against fraudulent applications and thus promote highway safety.

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