California Supreme Court Rules Cities Can Ban Airport Solicitations

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March 26, 2010
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The state Supreme Court on March 25 upheld a 1997 Los Angeles ordinance that prohibits the solicitation of money at Los Angeles International Airport's terminals, parking lots, and sidewalks. Justice Carlos Moreno, writing for the court, said that panhandling was "far more intrusive" than leafleting and other forms of Constitutionally-potected speech.  He added that travelers are frequently in a rush and that airports are often crowded. Solicitations could increase congestion, the court reasoned, resulting in travelers missing their flights or exposing visitors to potential intimidation and fraud.

The court acknowledged that asking for funds is a form of free speech that the Constitution protects. But the justices said solicitation is subject to reasonable limitations, citing a 2000 state Supreme Court ruling upholding a Los Angeles ordinance prohibiting panhandling near banks and ATMs.
David Liberman, the Hare Krishna's attorney, called the decision "disgusting." He anticipated that owners of shopping centers and other public venues would now try to institute similar bans.
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In 1980, the United States Supreme Court upheld an earlier California Supreme Court decision that the state can require owners of private shopping centers to provide access to political activists distributing literature and otherwise exercising their freedom of expression.
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