In reading your article “More Than a Little Change” [August 15], two items made me stop and wince and reread the article in surprise. The first problem is probably a mathematical error by your writer, but it makes me wonder. In the article she states that Mr. Davis was arrested on average three to four times a week and that each arrest cost $500. This means Mr. Davis was paying $75,000 a year in tickets and possibly attorney fees for panhandling. Either Mr. Davis has quite a lucrative business, not evidenced by his living in a flophouse and struggling from meal to meal, or this fact is just plain wrong.
Second, and much more egregious, is the settlement itself. Mr. Davis is harassed, arrested, has no place to live, and struggles to eat, and his part of the settlement is $1,000? Yet Mr. Weinberg, Mr. Caplan, and Mr. Morrissey get to split $350,000? What is wrong here? Given Ms. Marlan’s math, Mr. Davis is compensated for two of his arrests, and the lawyers can use the money for a down payment for a house in Winnetka? For this money they did not face extensive litigation, court costs, or probably research.
Now maybe the lawyers have donated their money to Mr. Davis and his colleagues, in which case I take back what I am about to say, but if not, these guys are no heroes of the poor and oppressed. They are three guys who saw a chance at a nice payday. If they really care, they should give the plaintiffs the $350,000 and split the balance amongst themselves.
Finally, next time I cross that bridge I will give something to Mr. Davis. He seemingly has been the victim of an unconstitutional law and of the lawyers ostensibly helping him out. He deserves my dollar.
Tori Marlan replies:
From September 1999 to September 2001 police made about 1,700 arrests under the panhandling ordinance and wrote several thousand tickets. Panhandlers who were arrested were eventually released on their own recognizance. As for panhandlers who were ticketed, you’d be hard-pressed to find one who actually paid the $500 fine.