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Fashion Valley Mall v. National Labor Relations Board

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Fashion Valley Mall v. National Labor Relations Board is a 4-3 December 2007 decision of the California Supreme Court that may have broad implications for petition circulation in California.[1]

On May 9th, 2008, The United States Court of Appeals decided against Fashion Valley Mall. This means that petitioners are allowed to petition in California on private property.[2]

The case stems from an incident in 1998 at a San Diego shopping mall, the Fashion Valley Mall. The mall attempted to eject from its premises leafletters who were distributing leaflets that asked shoppers to boycott stores at the mall because of the position the mall was taking in a union dispute.

The court ruled that such leafletters do have a free speech right to position themselves in or near the mall in order to distribute those leaflets, even though the leaflets urged an action that was contrary to the economic interests of the mall at which they were distributing the leaflets.

Broadly, the two core principles at issue in the case were freedom of speech rights and private property rights and, by a slim 4-3 margin, the court upheld freedom of speech over property rights. A lengthy dissent published by the 3 dissenting judges abhorred the decision.

The decision revisits core issues that were at the heart of the 1979 decision, Robins v. Pruneyard Shopping Center.

Although the case does not specifically mention petition circulators, a ruling that allows adversarial leafletters unfettered access to a private shopping mall is likely to lend significant plausibility to the claim that petition circulators ought to also have unfettered access to private shopping malls on the same free speech grounds.

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