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OKC must pay $986,350 in attorney’s fees over unconstitutional anti-panhandling law

9:58 AM EDT on August 26, 2021

If you see OKC Mayor David Holt standing on a street corner begging for change, I guess we know why!

Just months after the U.S. Supreme Court put an official end to the city's dogged attempt to reinstate an ordinance that prevented people from begging for change on city medians because they annoyed snobby rich ladies, US District Judge Joe Hornton ruled the city must pay $986,350 in attorney fees to the legal team who worked hard to overturn the unconstitutional law.

Here's his "conclusion."

If you want to read the judge's entire 14-page order, you can do so here.

The lawyer taking home the most spare change is Harvard-educated OU Law professor Joseph Thai. He gets a cool $600,000 for the 1,200 hours he spent trying to overturn the case. In case you care, that's $500 per hour. Here's a breakdown of what the other attorneys took home:

I did some quick math, and at a rate of $20 per hour, a panhandler would have to stand a continuous 5.6 years at the median of NW 23rd and Penn – and sell 200,000 copies of The Curbside Chronicle – to earn $986,350. Granted, that $20 per hour rate may seem low, but it's what I'm going with.

Although the $986,350 is barely a blip on the city's annual $1.65-billion budget, it is irritating and infuriating that taxpayers had to waste money defending a discriminatory law that everyone knew was unconstitutional. That money could have been spent on more important things, like you know, helping the very same people that the law was designed to discriminate against.

For what it's worth, we were critical of this ordinance way back when it was proposed by former OKC councilwoman Meg Salyer in 2015. Her lame excuse was that it was about safety, which prompted Louis to go stand at the median at NW 23rd and Classen to see just how dangerous it was. Either way, everyone knew the safety excuse was exactly that – an excuse – and the real intention of the law was to discriminate against people who, for whatever reason, want to stand on a slab of concrete or patch of worn grass and ask for money. Now, thanks to the hard work of the now much wealthier attorneys involved, the legal system agrees.

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