David Rodeback's Blog

Local Politics and Culture, National Politics,
Life Among the Mormons, and Other Stuff

Previous Post          Printer-Friendly Version          Next Post


Thursday, February 17, 2005
Another Lawsuit (Now It's Solicitors)

Several reports in the local print and broadcast media say that door-to-door solicitors are suing several Utah cities, including American Fork, claiming that ordinances in those cities place an unreasonably high hurdle in front of solicitors who want to sell door to door. Accoring the American Fork Citizen, the City's approach, already apparently a fait accompli, is to repeal the ordinance.

Requiring a solicitor's license and fingerprinting is perfectly reasonable; I'm not sure about requiring an actual business license, if the solicitor does not have a physical place of business in the city. Since there are some administrative costs, there should also be a modest fee. I don't care whether it's 50 cents or $50. A basic criminal background check would be wise, too. Why is all that too much to ask?

I'm not an attorney, but as I understand the First Amendment, the guarantee of free speech applies to commercial speech, but doesn't mean the speech must be free of charge. A solicitor should not be able to demand the right to solicit without paying a reasonable fee any more than I can go to the New York Times and demand they print a half-page ad, saying whatever I want it to say, absolutely free of charge. If the City's fee were really an unreasonable hurdle to serious business people, there might be a First Amendment case.

When a solicitor comes to my door, I want him or her to have to show me the license on demand. In my wildest dreams, I also want the solicitor subject to at least a $100 fine, which I split 50/50 with the City, if he or she doesn't leave promptly the first time I say "I'm not interested," "I don't have time," "Please leave," or any similar phrase which unambiguously communicates my desire for the solicitor's immediate absence. But that won't happen. Meeting a reasonable standard of evidence for that one would be . . . unreasonable. I guess I can always get or make a "No Solicitors" sign. It's a small price to pay.

Previous Post          Printer-Friendly Version          Next Post


Bookmark and Share