Supreme Quotes, 072021 MEBJ, 36 MEBJ, Pg. 97

PositionVol. 36 2 Pg. 97


No. Vol. 36 No. 2 Pg. 97

Maine Bar Journal

July, 2021


EVAN J. ROTH After nearly 20 years in Portland as an assistant U.S. attorney, Evan is now an administrative judge for the Merit Systems Protection Board in Denver. He can be reached at

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking….

Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156, 165 n.7 (1972) (Douglas, J.) (quoting Henry David Thoreau, Excursions 251-52 (1893)).

In Jacksonville, Florida, it was a crime to be a “rogue and vagabond,” or a “common night walker,” or a “habitual loafer,” who was “wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose.” It was a typical example of a so-called vagrancy law, which was common throughout the United States, with historical roots dating back to the 16th Century Elizabethan poor laws.

In Papachristou, the Supreme Court declared Jacksonville’s ordinance “void for vagueness” because it failed to provide clear notice of the conduct that was prohibited. Writing for the majority, Justice Douglas criticized the loose statutory text, which allowed for too much prosecutorial discretion. Or, as Justice Douglas more colorfully expressed it, upholding such a law would mean the poor and the unpopular would be permitted to stand on the public sidewalk “only at the whim of [a]...

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