Case Overview

Are public sidewalks open to the public? Time and again, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that, yes, public sidewalks are usually open to anyone, except in limited cases, like on military bases. Consequently, anyone can engage in First Amendment activity on public sidewalks, including protesting, asking passersby for petition signatures, or handing out leaflets. But the University of Alabama said no — and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit agreed, holding that the university could restrict a pastor’s right to talk to pedestrians and distribute religious material on a city-owned sidewalk just because it was in front of a campus building. 


While this restriction was used to block non-student speech, FIRE’s work shows that university administrators regularly use similar regulations to limit student speech on campus. On November 23, 2022, FIRE filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of the United States asking the Court to take up this appeal and once again make clear to administrators at public colleges and universities that the First Amendment applies to them, too.