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Lehman v. City of Shaker Heights

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Brief Fact Summary. Lehman (Petitioner) is running for political office and wants to advertise on the public transit system.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Public transportation advertising space is not a public forum and may be regulated as long as it is not arbitrary.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

The rights of free speech and assembly, while fundamental in our democratic society, still do not mean that everyone with opinions or beliefs to express may address a group at any public place and at any time.

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Facts. The City of Shaker Heights (Respondent) operates a transit system. Inside each transport area there are advertisement cards available for rent. Respondent frequently sells the space to local commercial entities. But it refused to sell the space to Petitioner for campaign promotions.

Issue. Does a public transit system have to accept paid advertisements from political candidates?

Held. No. The Respondent may limit access to advertising space to avoid the appearance of favoritism and the risk of imposing upon a captive audience.

Dissent. The advertisement cards are a public forum that cannot discriminate amongst speakers.
Concurrence. Just because a utility is publicly owned does not make it a public forum.

Discussion. The majority declares the advertising cards to be part of the commerce of the transit. But, the city has a responsibility to prevent the citizens from being subjected to political speech while they are trapped in the cars. Furthermore, to avoid favoritism Respondent would need to provide access to all political campaigns. This could become an overwhelming endeavor to fairly supervise.

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