Free Speech Activities May be Limited at State-Owned Fairgrounds
In Camenzind v. California Exposition and State Fair, et al. a divided Ninth Circuit panel recently held that an enclosed, ticketed portion on the state fairgrounds is a non-public forum, and that the fairground’s prohibition on the distribution of literature within the enclosed ticketed area was permissible.
In Camezind, Plaintiff, an evangelical Christian, visited the Hmong New Year Festival to distribute religious tokens to attendees. The festival, a privately-organized event, took place at the state-owned California Exposition and State Fair (“Cal-Expo”) fairgrounds in Sacramento County. Cal Expo officials told Plaintiff that he could distribute his tokens in the designated Free Speech Zones located outside the entry gates, but not inside the festival itself. Camezind refused, purchased a ticket, entered the festival gates, and began distributing the tokens to festival-goers. Officials ejected him from the property.
Camenzind sued in state court, alleging that Cal-Expo’s free speech guidelines violated his rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Speech Clause of the California Constitution. After the case was removed to federal court,. the District court, granted Cal Expo’s motion for summary judgment on the facial challenge to the guidelines, holding that the guidelines did not violate Camezind’s right to free expression under the U.S. or California constitutions. Camezind appealed.
Like the district court, the Ninth Circuit assessed the two parts of the property separately. The Court held that the free-expression zones located outside the fenced-in area were designated public forums, and were a valid regulation of Camezind’s speech under the U.S. Constitution. The Court, however, concluded that the enclosed portion of Cal Expo, during the festival, was a nonpublic forum under the U.S. Constitution. Nonetheless, the prohibition on the distribution of literature within the enclosed area was permissible because it was viewpoint neutral.
The Court also assessed the two parts of the property under the California Constitution. The Court held that given the distinction by California courts between ticketed and unticketed portions of venues, the enclosed portion of the fairgrounds, during the festival, did not constitute a public forum under the California Speech Clause. The outside area, however, did constitute a public forum under that clause. Again, the Court held that the Free Speech Zones located outside the fenced-in area were a valid regulation of Camenzind’s speech, and that the restrictions within the enclosed ticketed area were also reasonable under California constitutional law.
One judge dissented in part. He concluded that there was not enough information to properly evaluate whether Cal Expo is a public forum during the festival under the California Speech Clause, and recommended remanding the case for further factual development.
You can find the case here.
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