Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, August 19, 2003


Page 3


Ninth Circuit Rejects Bid for En Banc Review of Ruling On Fremont Street Experience Speech Rights


From Staff and Wire Service Reports


The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the city of Las Vegas’ request for en banc review of a July ruling that the Fremont Street Experience is a public forum where all speech activities are constitutionally protected.

None of the court’s active judges called for a vote on the city’s motion for a rehearing, resulting in a denial of the request.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, one of several groups that sued the city and the Fremont Street Experience in 1997, lauded the decision and called for the city to stop appealing the ruling.

“One would certainly hope that we have now finally reached the end of the line on this, and the city will see fit to stop wasting any more taxpayer money trying to defend the indefensible,” said Gary Peck, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada. “They should respect the First Amendment.”

On July 2, a three judge panel ruled that the $70 million remodeling of Fremont Street with a giant canopy, high-tech laser-light show and spruced-up sidewalks did not alter the area’s status as a public forum.

That decision reversed previous rulings by U.S. District Judge David Hagen of the District of Nevada that permitted distribution of noncommercial leaflets at the Fremont Street Experience, but allowed the city and the Fremont Street Experience to turn away commercial solicitors.

The city argued the closure of Fremont, construction of a lighted canopy over the street and its maintenance by a private company have turned it into a private promenade.

“They still have an opportunity to have the Supreme Court to hear it, but I don’t think they’ll take it up,” said Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the ACLU of Nevada. “There can be no dispute. It is clearly a public forum.”

The case is American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada v. City Of Las Vegas, 01-15958.


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