Petitioning victory: Do you have a right to petition there?

Yes!

Now, if your local arts organization, chamber of commerce, or non-profit has a festival or fair, you have a right to petition on the public property. It is their responsibility to hang a sign saying that they are not connected to you!

This is a great decision for third party activists, and people who do initiative and referendum and other work to petition the government.

Story at Ballot Access News and below:

Petitioning Victory from 9th Circuit
published at Ballot Access News
December 2nd, 2008

On December 1, the 9th circuit issued its opinion in Dietrich v John Ascuaga’s Nugget, 06-17135. The issue was whether petitioning should still be allowed on public sidewalks, when a private organization has rented a public square that abuts those public sidewalks. The decision says that just because a private organization has taken temporary control (for a day, or a weekend) of a public space, that does not mean the public space is no longer available for First Amendment activity.

The decision acknowledges that the private organization may have an interest in making it plain that it is not associated with whatever individual or group is petitioning, but says if that is a concern, the private organization is free to post a sign saying it is not associated with the petitioning. In this case, the petitioners were working on a recall petition, and the public sidewalks and public square had been temporarily rented out to the “Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off.” The decision commented that it was unlikely that any passerby would assume the recall petition is associated with the Cook-Off.

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