Mall Free Speech Case Lands in California Supreme Court

San Francisco, CA — The California Supreme Court is being asked to overturn a ruling by the California Court of Appeal in favor of a youth pastor who was arrested by mall security for sharing his faith. The youth pastor is represented by attorneys with Pacific Justice Institute.

In their Petition for Review, lawyers for the mall are asking the California Supreme Court to reverse decades of precedent establishing speech rights in large shopping malls under the California Constitution. The mall is also arguing that restricting its ability to arrest people like the youth pastor will turn the mall into a “flea market” and will result in a governmental “taking” of its property.

PJI affiliate attorney Timothy Smith filed an Answer Brief late last week, urging the Supreme Court not to take the case. The Court of Appeal decision thoroughly discussed and rejected the mall’s rules that require a permit for casual conversations about topics such as sports, the weather and religion. Wearing expressive clothing, such as a shirt that wishes passersby a “Merry Christmas” or bears a sports team logo, also requires a permit, according to the rules.

PJI affiliate attorney Timothy Smith, of the Sacramento firm McKinley & Smith, commented, “We have always maintained that the mall may enforce reasonable regulations on expressive activities. The problem with Westfield’s rules is that they are not close to being reasonable. The mall’s claims that limitations on its ability to arrest people equals a government taking of its property is also absurd.”

PJI President Brad Dacus commented, “The Court of Appeal got it right: California law is well-settled that large shopping malls cannot unreasonably restrict free speech. The mall’s attempts to overturn decades of case law on this issue should concern every Californian.”