Court upholds ban on petitioning for candidates on interior Post Office sidewalks

(excerpt from) Ballot Access News
First Circuit Upholds Ban on Petitioning for Candidates on Interior Post Office Sidewalks
March 18th, 2009

On February 25, the First Circuit upheld a Post Office regulation that, in effect, bans petititioning to place a candidate on a ballot on interior Post Office sidewalks. Del Gallo v Parent, 08-1511. The decision…was written by Judge Sandra Lynch, a Clinton appointee, and co-signed by Judge Michael Boudin, a Clinton appointee, and Kermit Lipiz, a Bush Sr. appointee…

Another case, related directly to the postal ban on all petitioning on its interior sidewalks, called Initiative & Referendum Institute v Postal Service, is still pending in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.

10 thoughts on “Court upholds ban on petitioning for candidates on interior Post Office sidewalks

  1. Andy

    This is a REALLY BAD development that will hurt anyone who is trying to put candidates or issues on the ballot. This is also an absolutely horrible anti-liberty decision.

  2. pdsa

    Which President appointed the sitting judges on this case is utterly irrelevant, and greatly distorts the decision to fit within the Ballot Access News author’s flatworlder conception of a bipolar polity. The issues involved in this case are few in number and fairly straightforward. The primary cited precedences which were relied on were decided by the conservative wing of The Rehnquist Court.

    The primary issue here is whether sidewalks that are completely within post office property, and easily distinguishable from the public sidewalks without the post office’s property are a tradition free-speech forum. In SCOTUS Caselaw, it has been long established that the Post Office’s primary duty is not to provide a free speech forum, and that solicitation bans on post office property need only meet a reasonable standard, if it has been neutrally applied. This came about as an effect of The 1970 Postal Reorganization Act, in which Congress had decided that partisan patronage at the post office in the past was a significant cause of its poor overall performance in its primary duties. A divided SCOTUS case, United States v. Kokinda (1990), made the determination in a 4 judge plurality, delivered by O’Connor and joined by Rehnqusit, Scalia, and White, held that the Post Office’s internal sidewalks were not traditional free-speech forums. Kennedy filled a separate opinion, concurring in judgment, stating that the decision did not even need to reach that far, because the regulation against political solicitations met the traditional standard applied to time, place, and manner restrictions of protected expression.

    Two years later, pretty much the same standard was used justifying the banning of Hare Krishnas from airport terminals. [See International Society For Krishna Consciousness, Inc. et al. V. Lee, Superintendent Of Port Authority Police (1992)] That case was written by Rehnquist, and was joined by White, O’Connor, Scalia, and Thomas.

    The person, Del Gallo, who was banned in this case from Election Campaigning Activity on post office sidewalks had been the source of numerous complaints by post office patrons regarding his harassment and intimidation when seeking signatures. Even had this been a traditional free-speech forum, Del Gallo was violating the law with this behavior, but that isn’t the germane issue. Del Gallo was not prohibited from seeking signatures on public sidewalks, only from doing so on internal Post Office sidewalks whose purpose is only to facilitate the Post Office’s patrons accessing its Constitutionally mandated duties.

    The Appellate Court Decision had nothing to do with Klintonista appointees to the bench, nor papa Bush’s. The decision was a reasonable application of SCOTUS precedence which had been tailored by Conservative jurists. No, there is no Free-Speech Right to block my entry and exit from a post office on its narrow internal sidewalks in an attempt to coerce my signature upon your lame petition. In fact on a bad day, I might consider that sort of behavior to be tantamount to fighting words.

  3. paulie

    I’ve petitioned at plenty of post offices. In no case did I ever block anyone from entering or exiting, and that includes those times I was asked to leave.

  4. paulie

    By the way, there used to be a post office memorandum that said we could petition at post office entrances.

    And additionally, I’ve even heard of (but not seen) post offices allowing petitioners to set up tables inside, in cold weather states.

  5. Kimberly Wilder

    PDSA: It is always good information to know who the judges are and who appointed them. There are so few ways that judges are held accountable for their views or decisions. And, even fewer ways that elected officials who appoint judges are held accountable.

    Funny to criticize someone for putting detail into a story. I purposefully copied those details from the BAN story because I found them useful as well.

    (And, I am curious what kind of a bipolar polity you believe that BAN has? I suspect it is like many people here: The duopoly is on one side, and everyone who is independent, third party, and having integrity is on the other side.

  6. pdsa

    I wasn’t accusing you Paulie. Check out the location on Google Maps. There isn’t much wiggle room on the interior Post Office sidewalks. I was actually surprised to read that SCOTUS has decided that the Post Office property is not a traditional free speech forum, and that the Postal Service has since its reorganisation in 1970 promulgated rules prohibiting electioneering activities on its properties. If you run up agains any opposition to petitioning on Post Office property in the future, my recommendation is that you just say A’OK, and go elsewhere, as it seems they are not only within their lawful rights to do so, they are also following official guidelines. PDF of decision

  7. pdsa

    Kimberly Wilder, in this instance it was a distortion, and worthless information, as I pointed out, because the appellate was only following previous precedence which had been decided by the Conservative Wing of the Rehnquist Court. I was unaware of the Kokinda decision prior to reading it today, and was a bit surprised at its breadth, but even though it was a 4 judge plurality and a separate concurring opinion that decided the case, I would be surprise if SCOTUS picked it up on appeal, or if it was even hear en banc by the whole First Circuit. A 3 judge appellate court upheld precedence decided by the Rehnquist Court. there is absolutely no substantive value gained supplying the information of which President appointed the 3 appellate judges. It was only an attempt to falsely portray this as a liberal taking of free-speech rights, which transparently is not the case here. I make no further judgment as to whether this was motivated by slothful ignorance or conscious distortion of fact.

  8. Nemo

    Well, technacalities aside (the facts that SCOTUS has decided that the Post Office property is not a traditional free speech forum and the regulation details of 1970), in it’s purest simplest form, this is a violation of free speech and freedom of expression.

    Of course if we are talking about standing in front of entrances and exits and the like, then sure – it’s a disturbance. However if it’s a peaceful assembly then these rediculous restrictions should NOT be implemented.

    It’s a shame that politics trumps the constitution.

  9. paulie

    I wasn’t accusing you Paulie. Check out the location on Google Maps.

    Not much that I can tell from that.

    There isn’t much wiggle room on the interior Post Office sidewalks.

    The vast majority that I have seen don’t have this problem.

    Post Office property is not a traditional free speech forum, and that the Postal Service has since its reorganisation in 1970 promulgated rules prohibiting electioneering activities on its properties.

    Not sure how they defined electioneering in 1970, but the ban on petitioning came down in the late 90s. Before that, we had a memorandum from PO brass that acknowledged that we could petition at post offices. I think I may still have a copy. Even if not, I definitely used to.

    If you run up agains any opposition to petitioning on Post Office property in the future, my recommendation is that you just say A’OK, and go elsewhere

    I do, unless it’s part of a regular city street.

    But I’ll still work the inside walk or parking lot until they say something. Some places that can be right away, other places they never say anything.

    as it seems they are not only within their lawful rights to do so, they are also following official guidelines.

    It depends on what you mean by lawful rights. I don’t think all official guidelines are truly lawful
    in a higher/broader sense.

    I’ve been asked to leave all sorts of places. I can’t think of any type of petition location that I have not been told to leave at one time or another.

    Ironic, when the state requires parties and candidates to petition, and then works to keep petitioners off its own property as well as everyone else’s.

  10. Richard Winger

    Eric Dondero frequently accuses me of slanting my coverage to make it look as though Democratic judges and Democratic legislators are more favorable to ballot access. I try to be even-handed. Eric would have had a field day against me if I had omitted the information about which presidents appointed these two judges.

    The issue is not nearly as cut-and-dried as some commenters above claim. The DC Circuit said that external post office sidewalks are a public forum, back in 2005. The Kokinda decision from the US Supreme Court in 1990 didn’t decide anything definitively, since there was no majority opinion. Also this recent First Circuit Opinion did not uphold the Post office ban on petitioning. It only ruled that the Post office ban on “campaigning” is constitutional, and that petitioning is the same thing is campaigning (which it is not, as any sensible person knows).

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