Forty Wayne Airport Authority’s Rules on Airport Expressive Activities Upheld by Federal Court

Forty Wayne Airport Authority’s Rules on Airport Expressive Activities Upheld by Federal Court

 

A federal court Judge in Indiana issued a ruling on Monday upholding the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority’s (“Authority”) Rules Regulating Time, Place and Manner of Expressive Activities, Literature Distribution and Solicitation (“rules”) at Fort Wayne International Airport (“airport”).

The plaintiff in the case, Paul Anthony Stanton, challenged the Authority’s rules in certain respects, in part because he does not believe that persons submitting applications to the authority to engage in literature distribution should be required to apply for a permit in advance of engaging in such activity, and they should not be required to disclose their identity, the subject matter of the activity, or the targeted audience of their activity at the airport.  Plaintiff submitted an application for, and was granted, a permit to conduct such activity at the airport from 7:00 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Monday, July 4, 2011, in order to hand out copies of the U. S. Constitution in protest of TSA’s heightened security and screening procedures at the airport. 

The Court found that since the airport is a nonpublic forum, meaning an area where the exercise of free speech can be restricted in reasonable ways to ensure that the normal activities in such non-public location are not unduly impeded, the plaintiff’s challenges to the Authority’s rules were without merit.  In evaluating the reasonableness of the Authority’s restrictions on the areas in which free speech activity could be conducted on airport premises, the Court stated, in part, that the Authority “could reasonably conclude that limiting free speech activity that is not otherwise incidental to air travel to certain areas within and outside the terminal is related to the protection of its interests in maintaining a secure environment, reducing congestion, ensuring the free and orderly flow of pedestrian traffic, and preserving desirable aesthetic qualities and features of the Airport.”  In it review of the reasonableness of the permit application requirements within the rules, the Court found that the Authority’s “permit requirement allows the Director to assign space and prevent an over-concentration of activity in one place or at one time, thereby protecting the Airport’s primary function while still allowing for expressive activity.”

Finally, the Court found no merit in the plaintiffs’ challenged of the Authority rules over a constitution doctrine the suggests that others who might desire to engage in Constitutionally protected speech expressions as a result of the scope of the rules.  The Court found that the overbreadth challenge put forth by the plaintiff did not apply to the Authority’s rules because none of the hypothetical concerns raised by the plaintiff suggested that the rules would significantly compromise First Amendment protections of parties that were not before the Court.