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Initiative & Referendum Institute v. Ralph's

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Initiative & Referendum Institute v. Ralph's is a lawsuit filed by the Initiative & Referendum Institute against Ralph's, a chain of grocery stores in California. The case was decided in favor of Ralph’s.

This case was filed in California District Court in 1998. The purpose of the lawsuit was to require stores in the Ralph's chain to allow petitioners to collect signatures while standing in front of the stores, subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions. The background for the lawsuit is that Ralph's stores were chasing petitioners away who attempted to collect signatures by their stores including, in some cases, threatening to have the petitioners arrested for trespass or calling police officers to come and ask the petitioners to leave.

A 1979 decision of the California Supreme Court, Robins v. Pruneyard Shopping Center, had established that petitioners could collect signatures in privately-owned shopping malls.

The district court, in reaching a contrary decision when considering Ralph's, appears to have relied on the difference between a single store (like Ralph's) on a parcel of land, versus a mall. The reasoning in the Pruneyard case was that private shopping malls have, in some ways, become "the public square" so that limiting free speech on their grounds as a practical matter deters the exercise of 1st amendment rights. In distinction to that, the California district court that decided Initiative & Referendum Institute v. Ralph's' did not take the view that stand-alone stores have taken on the role of places where people congregate to transact social and political business.