Appellant PruneYard is a privately owned shopping center in the city of Campbell,
Cal. It covers approximately 21 acres -- 5 devoted to parking and 16 occupied by
walkways, plazas, sidewalks, and buildings that contain more than 65 specialty shops,
10 restaurants, and a movie theater. The PruneYard is open to the public for the
purpose of encouraging the patronizing of its commercial establishments. It has a
policy not to permit any visitor or tenant to engage in any publicly expressive activity,
including the circulation of petitions, that is not directly related to its commercial
purposes. This policy has been strictly enforced in a nondiscriminatory fashion.
The PruneYard is owned by appellant Fred Sahadi.
Appellees are high school students who sought to solicit support for their opposition to a United Nations resolution against "Zionism." On a Saturday afternoon they set up a card table in a corner of PruneYard's central courtyard. THEY DISTRIBUTED PAMPHLETS and asked passersby to sign petitions, which were to be sent to the President and Members of Congress. Their activity was peaceful and orderly and so far as the record indicates was not objected to by PruneYard's patrons.
Soon after appellees had begun soliciting signatures, a security guard informed them that they would have to leave because their activity violated PruneYard regulations. The guard suggested that they move to the public sidewalk at the Prune Yard's perimeter. Appellees immediately left the premises and later filed this lawsuit in the California Superior Court of Santa Clara County. They sought to enjoin appellants from denying them access.
THE CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT HELD THAT THE CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION PROTECTS "SPEECH AND PETITIONING, REASONABLY EXERCISED, IN SHOPPING CENTERS EVEN WHEN THE CENTERS ARE PRIVATELY OWNED." 23 Cal. 3d 899,910,592 P. 2d 341,347 (1979). IT CONCLUDED THAT APPELLEES WERE ENTITLED TO CONDUCT THEIR ACTIVITY ON PRUNEYARD PROPERTY.
Here the requirement that appellants permit appellees to exercise state-protected rights of free expression and petition on shopping center property clearly does not amount to an unconstitutional infringement of appellants' property rights under the Taking Clause. There is nothing to suggest that preventing appellants from prohibition this sort of activity will unreasonably impair the value or use of their property as a shopping center. The PruneYard is a large commercial complex that covers several city blocks, contains numerous separate business establishments, and is open to the public at large.
THE DECISION OF THE CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT MAKES IT CLEAR THAT THE PRUNEYARD MAY RESTRICT EXPRESSIVE ACTIVITY BY ADOPTING TIME, PLACE, AND MANNER REGULATIONS THAT WILL MINIMIZE ANY INTERFERENCE WITH ITS COMMERCIAL FUNCTIONS. APPELLEES WERE ORDERLY, AND THEY LIMITED THEIR ACTIVITY TO THE COMMON AREAS OF THE SHOPPING CENTER.
In these circumstances, the fact that they may have "physically invaded" appellants' property cannot be viewed as determinative.
There is also little merit to appellants' argument that they have been denied their property without due process of law. In Nebbia v. New York, 291 U.S. 502 (1934), this Court stated:
"[NEITHER] PROPERTY RIGHTS NOR CONTRACT RIGHTS ARE ABSOLUTE.... EQUALLY
FUNDAMENTAL WITH THE PRIVATE RIGHT IS THAT OF THE PUBLIC TO REGULATE IT IN
THE COMMON INTEREST....
The shopping center by choice of its owner is not limited to the personal
use of appellants. It is instead a business establishment that is open to the public
to come and go as they please. The views expressed by members of the public
IN PASSING OUT PAMPHLETS or seeking signatures for a petition thus
will not likely be identified with those of the owner. Second, no specific message
is dictated by the State to be displayed on appellants' property.
There consequently is no danger of governmental discrimination for or
against a particular message. Finally, as far as appears here appellants can
expressly disavow any connection with the message by simply posting signs in the
area where the speakers or HANDBILLERS stand. Such signs, for example,
could disclaim any sponsorship of the message and could explain that the
persons are communicating their own messages by virtue of state law.
We conclude that neither appellants' federally recognized property rights nor their
First Amendment rights have been infringed by the California Supreme Court's
decision recognizing a right of appellees to exercise state-protected rights of
expression and petition on appellants' property.
The judgement of the Supreme Court of California is therefore Affirmed.
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