Legal Principle at Issue
Is a sidewalk on post office property, which is intended only to facilitate traffic to and from the post office, a public forum? Does a government ban on solicitation emanating from such a sidewalk violate the First Amendment rights of respondents?
Reversed. Petitioning party received a favorable disposition.
Government property that is designated by the government as being open and available to the pubic for expressive purposes is as classified as a public forum. The government regulation of speech in a public forum must pass strict scrutiny.Hague v. CIO, 307 U.S. 496 (1939). Speech in a public forum may also be regulated by reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions which do not target the content of speech. If on the other hand, the Government has not made their property available for public expression, or the function of the property would be substantially hampered by expression, the property will be classified as a non-public forum. The Government may regulate or ban all types of speech in a nonpublic forum. Adderley v. Florida, 385 U.S. 39 (1966). Lastly, a quasi-public or limited public forum may exist where the government has opened to certain First Amendment uses. A government-operated limited public forum is not required to and does not allow individuals to engage in all types of speech. The regulation of speech activity where the Government has not dedicated its property to First Amendment activity is examined only for reasonableness.
Importance of Case
The Courts held that the post office sidewalk was not a designated public forum. The sidewalks sole purpose was to provide a passageway for customers of the post office. The Court did acknowledge that since the forum had been opened up to certain First Amendment uses (leafleting, speaking, and picketing), the Court would have to apply a reasonableness test. The Court found that under this reasonableness test that the solicitation significantly interfered with the operation of the post office. Thus, the solicitation could be banned. In his concurrence, Justice Kennedy argued that a public forum analysis was unnecessary because the regulation complied with the requirements of a reasonable time, place, and manner restriction.