A U.S. District Court Judge dismissed on Wednesday the arguments by New York City lawyers and granted six panhandlers to proceed with a class action against the state and local law-enforcement agencies accused of making thousands of illegal arrests under a defunct law.
Class action status means thousands of state's panhandlers with a similar complaint can join the suit and could be included in any monetary judgment.
Judge Shira Scheindlin said that granting class action status was the only way to stop the state-wide enforcement of an anti-begging law that was ruled unconstitutional in 1992, but since then has been used in over 10,000 arrests and prosecutions across the entire state.
"We're looking forward to putting an end to this practice," said Matthew Brinckerhoff, the beggars' lawyer.
The city lawyers had contended that the plaintiffs were unfit to represent such a large group in a class action suit, due to mental illness and drug addiction.