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Arkansas Educational Television Commission v. Forbes

The Events

In 1992 Ralph P. Forbes, a former American Nazi Party member, garnered enough signatures to become a viable (legally qualified) candidate for a congressional seat in the Third District of Arkansas. Arkansas Educational Television Commission decided to hold a debate on the government-funded Arkansas Education Television Network (AETN) between the Democratic and Republican party candidates. It denied Forbes's request to join the October debate.

Forbes sued AETC in federal court, claiming his First Amendment rights of free speech were violated by the exclusion. The federal court denied Forbes's request to join the debate; the debate proceeded between the two candidates. Forbes did not win the seat in the 3 November 1992 election.

In 1993, the federal district court dismissed Forbes's First Amendment claims. Forbes appealed in the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Arkansas Educational Television Commission v. Forbes (94-490), and on 28 April 1994, the court ruled in his favor.

Arkansas Educational Television Commission appealed the Eighth Circuit decision in the U.S. Supreme Court, but failed to get a hearing, so a jury trial was held in 1995, in federal district court. The jury determined that Forbes was excluded from the debate because he was a fringe candidate and not because of his political views. They ruled in favor of the AETN.

The Eighth Circuit Court then reversed the jury's ruling on 21 August 1996, on the grounds that the district court made an incorrect judgment that AETC was a nonpublic forum. It ruled in favor of Forbes, and ordered that a jury determine an entitlement of damages.

In November of 1996, AETC appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. On 17 March 1997, the Court agreed to hear the case's oral arguments on 8 October. On 18 May 1998 the court ruled in favor of AETC.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentArkansas Educational Television Commission v. Forbes - Significance, The Events, Editorial Discretion, Or Government Censorship?, The Importance Of Public And Nonpublic Forums