Lebron V. National Railroad Passenger Corp. (Amtrak): Another Misapplication of the Public Forum Doctrine

By Smith, Catherine | St. John's Law Review, Summer 1996 | Go to article overview

Lebron V. National Railroad Passenger Corp. (Amtrak): Another Misapplication of the Public Forum Doctrine


Smith, Catherine, St. John's Law Review


Freedom of thought and speech has been described as "the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom."1 Nonetheless, the First Amendment right to free speech,2 although long considered essential to the maintenance of our democratic society,3 is not absolute.4 When confronted with a potentially impermissible proscription on the right to free speech, courts engage in a categorical analysis to determine the appropriate level of First Amendment protection warranted based on the classification of the speaker's chosen forum. 5

Known as the public forum doctrine, this analysis classifies three types of fora: the traditional public forum, the designated public forum, or the non-public forum. The term, "traditional public forum," stands for the notion that "streets and parks ... have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and ... have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions."6 In this forum, speech receives its greatest protection. Any governmental attempts to restrict speech in a traditional public forum must withstand a strict scrutiny analysis requiring the government to assert a compelling state interest.7 Public property which has not traditionally been considered a public forum, but which the government has made available to the public for expressive activity, constitutes a "designated public forum."8 Governmental restrictions on speech made in a forum that is endowed with this "open" character will require the government to meet the same standards applicable to a traditional public forum.9 Government property which has not been held out as an arena for expression is classified as a nonpublic forum.10 In such a forum, the state may regulate speech, as long as the regulation is reasonable and not based on the viewpoint expressed by the speaker.ll

It is a basic precept of the public forum doctrine that, regardless of the forum chosen by a speaker, the government is prohibited from silencing that speaker due to governmental displeasure with the message conveyed.l2 Recently, in Lebron v. National Railroad Passenger Corp. (Amtrak),13 the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that Amtrak, a government entity,"14 could constitutionally refuse to run a paid advertisement criticizing the political views of the makers of Coors beer. 15

In Lebron, Michael A. Lebron,16 plaintiff, contracted with Transportation Displays, Inc. ("TDI"), an agent of National Railroad Passenger Corp. ("Amtrak"), to rent the Spectacular, a "curved, back-lit display space approximately 103 feet wide by ten feet high" on the west wall of the rotunda on the upper level of Pennsylvania Station ("Penn Station").17 The terms of the contract reserved to TDI the right to terminate the contract at any time without notice should "[Amtrak] deem such advertising objectionable for any reason."18 When Lebron submitted his proposed advertisement,19 a large work comprised of pictures and text, criticizing the makers of Coors beer for their involvement in and support of right-wing political causes,20 Amtrak refused to run the display stating that "[Amtrak's] policy is that it will not allow political advertising on the [S]pectacular advertising sign."21

The public forum doctrine requires that one first determine the relevant forum under discussion, categorize it as one of the three types of fora, and finally apply the appropriate analysis.22 Circuit Judge Mahoney, writing for the court, held that the relevant forum for public forum doctrine analysis was the Spectacular, the single billboard for which Lebron contracted.23 Because Amtrak had never before run a political advertisement on the Spectacular,24 the court concluded that the Spectacular was "most likely ... a nonpublic forum."25 The court consequently found that Amtrak's rejection of Lebron's advertisement was permissible as a viewpoint-neutral decision based on the subject matter and not the content of the advertisement. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Lebron V. National Railroad Passenger Corp. (Amtrak): Another Misapplication of the Public Forum Doctrine
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.