BOSTON -- Appearing to go beyond a preliminary injunction sought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts to suspend Lowell's ban on panhandling in the city's historic downtown, a federal judge asked both sides to file arguments for a permanent injunction that could decide the case.

During a two-hour hearing Monday, U.S. District Court Justice Woodlock peppered Lowell City Solicitor C. Michael Carlson and ACLU cooperating counsel Robert D. Carroll with questions about the constitutionality of the city's ban and what other remedies are possible.

The ACLU and Goodwin Proctor LLP of Boston filed a lawsuit in U. S. District Court on behalf of three homeless people, challenging the city's ban on panhandling within the 400 acres of the historic downtown because it violates panhandlers' first amendment right to free speech.

The hearing on Monday was to ask Woodlock to issue a preliminary injunction temporarily halting the ban until the lawsuit is finished. But Woodlock asked both sides to submit briefs by Friday on the issue of a permanent injunction that he will consider.

For more on this story see Tuesday's Sun or visit