Court Roundup


Court agrees anti-begging law unconstitutional 
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Louisiana Supreme Court has upheld a district judge’s ruling that the New Orleans city ordinance outlawing begging is unconstitutional.
The law has been used to arrest more than 1,000 panhandlers in the past three years.
The Supreme Court denied the state’s request last week that it intervene in the case, The Advocate reports, offering no written reasons or analysis of the ordinance’s constitutionality.
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter scrapped the charges against a 24-year-old panhandler in May, blasting the city for continuing to enforce a law first declared faulty in 1984.
In decades since, thousands of people have been arrested for violating the law, but nothing has been done to fix it.
The case stems from the May 2012 stop by two New Orleans police officers of Joseph Thornton, 24, who was begging for money alongside a road. They discovered he had a bag of cocaine hidden in his mouth.
Thornton was booked on the begging charge, a misdemeanor, along with a felony charge for the drugs.
In May, Hunter dismissed the drug charge, finding the evidence for it had been obtained during an illegal search.
In 1984, a federal court found the law in New Orleans was “overbroad.”
City law, at the time, barred anyone from standing on the street to hitchhike, sell goods or beg for money. The federal court banned the city from enforcing the law and suggested that it be rewritten to restrict begging only when it could be shown to pose a real threat to public safety.
A decade later, in 1995, the council updated the begging ordinance, but expanded the law’s reach. Restrictions against advertising for employment and soliciting charitable donations were added.
The ordinance was again challenged and ended up before the state Supreme Court in 2009.
Before the court ruled, the city attorney promised it would no longer be enforced until it was changed.
The high court therefore deemed the issue moot, yet the law was never altered.
Between 2010 and May 2013, nearly 1,300 people were charged under the law.
The American Civil Liberties Union attacked a similar ordinance in Slidell earlier this year, and the Slidell City Council quickly passed a new, narrower law to replace it.
Ex-dancer sues strip club over unpaid wages 
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — An exotic dancer is suing Bourbon Street strip club Rick’s Cabaret, claiming the business refused to pay wages and siphoned off tips to hundreds of its women performers.
Kelly Moncheski, a former dancer, filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court in New Orleans. The Times Picayune reports she’s suing on behalf of other former employees at Rick’s Cabaret. The club, operated by RCI Entertainment of Louisiana, is located on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter.
The lawsuit claims that Rick’s Cabaret improperly classified dancers as independent contractors — rather than employees — to cheat them out of pay, overtime wages and tips.
More than 300 women have worked as dancers without being paid minimum wages, the lawsuit says.
The dancers should be classified as tipped workers under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and are therefore entitled to at least $2.13-per-hour and to pocket all of their tips, Moncheski’s lawyer, Alexandra Mora, wrote in the suit.
Instead, Rick’s Cabaret only paid the women in tips from customers for their semi-nude performances, the lawsuit claims, and dancers were forced to share tips with the owners.
When performing for customers in private rooms, the business charged the dancers “rent” for using the space, according to the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the company dictated to the dancers how long they should work, what to wear, and how to groom themselves — or face being fired — all indications the dancers were employees, not independent contractors, the lawsuit says.
Man who led prostitution ring gets 15 months 
GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — An Atlantic City man has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for running a Korean prostitution ring in Mississippi by harboring women who were in the United States without authorization.
Federal court documents show Chi Sung Jung, 52, pleaded guilty in July in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey to one count of bringing in and harboring aliens.
Jung has been held without bond in New Jersey since February, when he requested he be prosecuted closer to his home.
Jung was sentenced Nov. 1. The judge’s sentencing order was entered in online court records last week.
Prosecutors say Jung organized and led the escort service that used online advertisements to arrange meetings for sex.
Jung faced up to 10 years in prison.
A federal grand jury indicted Jung and Moonseop Kim, 54, on multiple counts after Biloxi police arrested Kim and a 27-year-old woman on prostitution charges in September.
The police sting involved an undercover operation in which an officer responded to an online ad for a date with a “super hot and sexy Korean girl.” The officer met the woman at a hotel. Police arrested the woman and Kim, her driver.