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Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins

The First Amendment Concerns

On the First Amendment issue, the owner of the center cited a precedent that said states may not force an individual to display any kind of ideological message. The case cited, Wooley v. Maynard (1977) which involved a Jehovah's Witness who covered up the New Hampshire state motto, "Live Free or Die," on his car's license plate. Rehnquist, however, said that case was completely different from Pruneyard. The shopping center is open to the public, and the view expressed by a group distributing pamphlets would not necessarily be associated with the owner. Also, the state was not compelling Pruneyard to display one specific message. "Finally," Rehnquist concluded, " . . . appellants can expressly disavow any connection with the message simply by posting signs in the area where the speakers or handbillers stand."

Although all nine justices agreed with the judgment in Pruneyard, two of them took issue with the last section, regarding the First Amendment. Justice Powell, in an opinion joined by Justice White, asserted the appellants had not made a convincing argument. But Powell worried about other instances where property owners might be compelled to let others express opinions the owner did not share. "I do not interpret our decision today as a blanket approval for state efforts to transform privately owned commercial property into public forums. Any such state action would raise substantial federal constitutional questions not present in this case."

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins - Significance, The State's Constitutional Guarantee Of Free Speech, The First Amendment Concerns, Related Cases