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It’s a practice that annoys pedestrians, but according to civil rights lawyers, it’s protected by the First Amendment.

Handing out flyers on the Strip – flyers with material that is often X-rated, like “girls direct to your door,” or “live exotic dancers,” – is now governed by a county ordinance requiring that the handbillers pick up any of the cards dropped within a 25 foot radius of where they’re standing.

Civil rights attorneys say the ordinance is being selectively enforced with an eye towards material that the County would like to see less of.

“I don’t see them passing this ordinance for In-N-Out Burger or for any other commercial enterprise. It’s just these few guys. It’s very clear that they’re targeting this kind of speech, because they don’t like this kind of speech,” says attorney Marc Randazza, “And that bothers me as a First Amendment advocate.”

ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Dane Claussen says that in addition to the freedom of speech issue, he doubts that the ordinance will be practical.

“This thing about the handbillers needing to clean up after themselves every 15 minutes, and they need to be doing that in a 25-foot radius. Are the police officers going to be standing there with stop watches or tape measures? It’s going to be silly to try to enforce.”

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Civil rights attorney Mark Randazza says these types of attempts to regulate flyers have a long history.

“This is a very old fight. One of the every commercial speech cases was about a guy handing out leaflets in New York City to have people come and take rides on a submarine that he owned,” says Randazza. “And it’s not always about hand billers. There’s always something in the community that people say we don’t like that kind of thing … very frequently it has to do with erotic speech.”

Claussen adds that there is no precedent for the way Clark County is attempting to regulate the handbillers.

“This is beyond the pale,” says Claussen. “The reason there’s not a court case specifically on this issue is because no one else in the United States … was silly enough to pass an ordinance like this.”

 

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