ABA Journal


Government Law

Town sues ‘Robin Hood’ citizen group known for feeding parking meters, says it harasses workers

May 14, 2013, 09:40 pm CDT


This practice would probably bankrupt D.C.

By Hedgehog on 2013 05 15, 4:35 pm CDT

Just curious why they are called "Robin Hooders" - they don't steal from the rich and give to the poor, do they? Wouldn't "Parking Guardian Angels" be more appropriate? I am talking about the meter feeding, not harassment of parking officers (the latter part I don't have too much sympathy for, everybody hates the parking meters but these guys are just doing their job).

By Peter Roos on 2013 05 17, 11:51 am CDT

I'm sorry, but these guys sound like jerks. Honestly, if the best thing you can come up with for your free time is to pay other people's meters, then your life has gone wrong in so many ways.

By Island Attorney on 2013 05 17, 12:22 pm CDT

If all they are doing is paying other peoples parking meters, BRAVO!!!!
As to the allegations of harrasment, etc., I will withold my opinion until the evidence is presented.
It is so rare that people are willing to do something nice for strangers, especially if it involves financial loss (small as it may be).
If doing good deeds and helping others makes one a "jerk", then I wish we had more "jerks" in the world!

By Guilin Expat on 2013 05 17, 12:50 pm CDT

My roomates and I did this all the time in Ann Arbor (U of Michigan) - As students getting tapped for a $5 parking ticket was the worst. When we saw the meter person at the top of our street, we would all check our pockets for dimes and nickles and run out and feed the five or ten meters in front of our apartment. It did not matter whose car it was, we fed them all. Fight the Power!

By Matthew on 2013 05 17, 12:52 pm CDT

I understand the point that parking officers are just doing their job, but seeking injunctive relief for them is just ridiculous. Parking officers ARE state actors. Videotaping a state employee, in public, (especially while they are enforcing the law) simply is not harassment. And unless the verbal taunting crosses a certain line, same thing. If somebody wants to tell a meter man, in public while they are enforcing the law that they are a fascist pig, that's what the First Amendment is for.

By Bruce on 2013 05 17, 1:11 pm CDT

@Island Attorney - so your position is someone who performs random acts of kindness for strangers is an individual whose "life has gone wrong"? May one ask what contributions you make to society that are superior?

By NYS Courts ex-wife on 2013 05 17, 1:41 pm CDT

@7 Somebody has to pick up the torch for the "pro bono work is baloney" contingent here.

By Jesquire on 2013 05 17, 3:10 pm CDT

@Hedgehog, I think you're forgetting that D.C. would just ticket legally parked cars, which has happened to me several times, and required the owner to file a "Motion to Vacate Judgement." That's right, judgment with an 'e' (such a spelling might work in the UK, but even there it's only used in a non-legal context).

By Obscurant on 2013 05 17, 3:21 pm CDT

I find this story entertaining on so many levels.

"Contending that their harassment of parking enforcement officers could force the workers to quit if a court doesn't grant relief ... the suit seeks injunctive relief in the form of a court order prohibiting the members of the group from approaching the workers while they are on the job."

Gosh, yeah, I sure hope the town doesn't lose that incredibly valuable, virtually irreplaceable pool of employee skillz known as "parking enforcement." I mean, we have virtually no unemployment, so how would the town ever find replacements to hire? And I'm sure those "officers" could take their talents to South Beach in a heartbeat.

Also, good luck with that injunction under the First Amendment, as Bruce @ 6 notes.

Second, to Peter @ 2, while I like your alternative group name as well, my guess would be that the perceived "rich" from whom they are "stealing" is the law enforcement establishment, as Matthew @ 5 humorously notes. I realize this is just a small N.H. town, but in these days of the "War on Terror" (I bet "terror" is terrified now that we are at war with it) and the "War on Drugs," law enforcement / gov't bureaucracy is definitely one of the richest targets around. And in my mid-sized city at least, the fee for a simple expired meter has increased exponentially in recent years. Used to be not much more than Matthew cites, and is now over $30.

Island Atty, you must just be grumpy today. I guess even in paradise this is possible sometimes? IF these Robin Hooders are, say, shouting personal insults at the officers while plugging the meters, that's not too cool, but they are still fundamentally doing good deeds. Maybe not quite up there with eradicating malaria from the Third World, but it's still something.

Finally, I will note that at least the town isn't trying to criminally prosecute these Robin Hooders. In Ohio, or some parts thereof anyway, it is apparently actually against the law to feed another person's meter. Seriously. There was an infamous case around here several years back where the state actually arrested and tried a little old grandma for doing what this group is doing -- only she wasn't even "harassing" anyone, simply walking around and feeding expired or about-to-expire meters out of the goodness of her heart. I don't recall the outcome of the case, but it sure made me appreciate the availability of jury nullification.

By Just Some Bloke on 2013 05 17, 3:45 pm CDT

DC regularly tickets legally parked cars with sticker showing plenty of time left. Count on it if you have a european car or plates other than DC. There is nowhere on site any indication as to where to place those paper receipts indicating how much time you have paid for. And that's just what DC wants. If you have it on the left - driver's side - you get a ticket. If you have it on the right, passenger's side, you get a ticket. If you have it in the middle, you guessed it - you get a ticket. IF you are lucky enough and find the officer who wrote the ticket and show your receipt to him/her asking why they gave you the ticket, they will tell you that you had it on the wrong side of the car and they didn't see it. On the driver's side, they would have to walk on the street. On the passenger's site, it's not where it's supposed to be. On the middle of the dashboard, it would require them to walk between cars to see it. And of course, if you don't find the officer - the most likely outcome - you'd have to go to court. How much is your hourly rate? How much is your time worth to you? Your aggravation? They know all that! They know it, that's why they count on getting away with it. And away, they get.

By Sanja on 2013 05 17, 4:50 pm CDT

I think a point is being missed. It's not just the desired extra revenue for the town's coffers (although anyone who has been nabbed by those atrocious intersection cameras in Chicago's suburbs that trap yellow-light violators, sans cops, can tell you how obnoxious these generate-revenue-from-fining-the-citizens laws are). The main reason is, not letting one parker monopolize the parking space. If it's a 2-hour meter, that's what you get. 1 hour, the same. Maybe 12 minutes. Then you get in your car and get out of the spot so someone else can park. In my small city (no longer Chicago, which has the most outrageously high parking costs I have ever seen-thanks, Mayor Daley), the downtown workers will park on Main Street and close-by streets that are metered for 2 or 4 hours. Then they will run out and plug them (or have someone else do so) just before the time is up. Customers drive around and have no place to park. That's the rationale for no meter-plugging, more than trying to get more parking revenue. These vigilante Robin Hoods likely mean well, but I can see the town's point, too.

By TG1974JD on 2013 05 17, 5:20 pm CDT

@6 Unfortunately, in Keene, recording a public employee doing his job is a felony (see

By DC on 2013 05 17, 5:44 pm CDT

Such a first world problem

By Hadley V. Baxendale on 2013 05 17, 8:44 pm CDT

TG1974JD, just fyi, that's not the way it works in Keene. They chalk your tires and check back in 2 hours - if the car hasn't been moved, you get a ticket even though the meter has been fed. Parking tickets are $10 in Keene, and I have to say I have little patience with the Free Keeners, the group that the Robin Hooders are a subset of. The parking meter feeding thing is a gambit trying to get contributions to their cause - they leave a calling card telling you that they saved you from a parking ticket and asking for a donation. I do think their energy could be used elsewhere more constructively than on their supposed "liberty" projects.

By Sneepydog on 2013 05 17, 9:39 pm CDT

I talked to one of the Robin Hooders today. I've known him for years. He's a Libertarian. He lives at the Activist Center in Keene. It must be a Libertarian stronghold. Once I saw him a few years ago writing (in chalk) on the sidewalks "Free Bradley Manning". Just FYI.

By Old Man from New Hampshire on 2013 05 17, 10:24 pm CDT

@ Bruce: I'm sorry Bruce, but I don't see how feeding meters is contributing to society. My comment that these guys sound like jerks is rooted more in their need to video tape and harass (perhaps these guys would prefer the term "forcibly talk to") meter folks.

By Island Attorney on 2013 05 17, 10:28 pm CDT

NH state motto is live free or die. I went to college in NH but only had a bike.

By defensive lawyer on 2013 05 17, 11:00 pm CDT

@#4 -- I agree with you 100%!

By Ladylaw on 2013 05 18, 1:35 am CDT

They used to be called "public servants".

By Me on 2013 05 18, 1:01 pm CDT

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: Video/audio recording of a public employee should not be against the law; I believe there are recent appellate court cases that hold that citizens have a right to do so. The 2-party rule is BS; unless one party owes a statutory, fiduciary, or ethical duty to the other to inform them that they are recording (or even NOT to record, which in some states is the rule for attorney-client communications), if one party consents to a recording, that is nothing more nor less than a logical extension of the concept that the other party destroys their expectation of privacy by sharing with that individual -- who may then share the content with anyone (again, unless there is a legal, ethical, or statutory duty imposed on that person that creates an expectation of privacy or duty to be informed of the recording). Public officials should never operate in secret, and therefore cannot object to being recorded.

Now, that said, although people have a right to criticize public officials, I can't condone actual harassment. That's not just rude; it borders on interference with official acts. If you don't like the law, work to change the law. Don't harass the people who are tasked with enforcing the law just because you don't like it.

By sb on 2013 05 20, 5:22 pm CDT

I hope someone starts a similar group that pays others' law school loans. That being said, do the beneficiaries of the robin hood group have to report the cost of the meter as income for tax purposes or is it simply a gift?

By SME on 2013 05 21, 6:46 pm CDT

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