Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins

Decided on June 9, 1980; 447 US 74


A. Issues Discussed: Free speech, Taking Clause 

B. Legal Question Presented:

Do state constitutional provisions, which permit individuals to exercise free speech and petition rights on the property of a privately owned shopping center to which the public is invited, violate the shopping center owner's property rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments or his free speech rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments?


A. Background:

"Appellant Prune Yard is a privately owned shopping center in the city of Campbell, Cal. It covers approximately 21 acres... The PruneYard is open to the public for the purpose of encouraging the patronizing of its commercial establishments. It has a policy not to permit any visitor or tenant to engage in any publicly expressive activity, including the circulation of petitions, that is not directly related to its commercial purposes. This policy has been strictly enforced in a nondiscriminatory fashion...

Appellees are high school students who sought to solicit support for their opposition to a United Nations resolution against 'Zionism.' On a Saturday afternoon they set up a card table in a corner of PruneYard's central courtyard. They distributed pamphlets and asked passersby to sign petitions, which were to be sent to the President and Members of Congress. Their activity was peaceful and orderly and so far as the record indicates was not objected to by PruneYard's patrons.

Soon after appellees had begun soliciting signatures, a security guard informed them that they would have to leave because their activity violated PruneYard regulations. The guard suggested that they move to the public sidewalk at the PruneYard's perimeter. Appellees immediately left the premises and later filed this lawsuit in the California Superior Court of Santa Clara County. They sought to enjoin appellants from denying them access to the PruneYard for the purpose of circulating their petitions.

The Superior Court held that appellees were not entitled under either the Federal or California Constitution to exercise their asserted rights on the shopping center property.... The California Court of Appeal affirmed.

The California Supreme Court reversed, holding that the California Constitution protects 'speech and petitioning, reasonably exercised, in shopping centers even when the centers are privately owned'..."

On appeal the US Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Supreme Court of California.  

B. Counsel of Record:
Opposing Side
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
Opposing Side
Unavailable Unavailable
Opposing Side
Brief of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed by Susan L. Paulus, Amitai Schwartz, and Burt Neuborne for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California et al.; by J. Albert Woll, Laurence Gold, and George Kaufmann for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations; by Nathan Z. Dershowitz for the American Jewish Congress et al.; and by Roger Jon Diamond for People's Lobby, Inc. Elinor Hadley Stillman argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance. With her on the brief were Solicitor General McCree and Deputy Solicitor General Wallace.

Philip L. Hammer argued the cause and filed a brief for appellees.

Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed by Laurence M. Cohen and Charles H. May II for Homart Development Co.; by Dean L. Overman and Peter N. Kyros, Jr., for the International Council of Shopping Centers; and by Joseph H. Moless, Jr., and Philip B. Kurland for Taubman Co., Inc., et al.

Max L. Gillam argued the cause for appellants. With him on the briefs were James W. Daniels, William C. Kelly, Jr., and Thomas P. O'Donnell.


"Appellants first contend that Lloyd Corp. v. Tanner prevents the State from requiring a private shopping center owner to provide access to persons exercising their state constitutional rights of free speech and petition when adequate alternative avenues of communication are available...

Our reasoning in Lloyd, however, does not ex proprio vigore [by its own strength] limit the authority of the State to exercise its police power or its sovereign right to adopt in its own Constitution individual liberties more expansive than those conferred by the Federal Constitution...

Appellants next contend that a right to exclude others underlies the Fifth Amendment guarantee against the taking of property without just compensation and the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee against the deprivation of property without due process of law...

Here the requirement that appellants permit appellees to exercise state-protected rights of free expression and petition on shopping center property clearly does not amount to an unconstitutional infringement of appellants' property rights under the Taking Clause. There is nothing to suggest that preventing appellants from prohibiting this sort of activity will unreasonably impair the value or use of their property as a shopping center. The PruneYard is a large commercial complex that covers several city blocks, contains numerous separate business establishments, and is open to the public at large. The decision of the California Supreme Court makes it clear that the PruneYard may restrict expressive activity by adopting time, place, and manner regulations that will minimize any interference with its commercial functions. Appellees were orderly, and they limited their activity to the common areas of the shopping center. In these circumstances, the fact that they may have 'physically invaded' appellants' property cannot be viewed as determinative...

Appellants finally contend that a private property owner has a First Amendment right not to be forced by the State to use his property as a forum for the speech of others...

[T]he shopping center by choice of its owner is not limited to the personal use of appellants. It is instead a business establishment that is open to the public to come and go as they please. The views expressed by members of the public in passing out pamphlets or seeking signatures for a petition thus will not likely be identified with those of the owner. Second, no specific message is dictated by the State to be displayed on appellants' property. There consequently is no danger of governmental discrimination for or against a particular message. Finally, as far as appears here appellants can expressly disavow any connection with the message by simply posting signs in the area where the speakers or handbillers stand. Such signs, for example, could disclaim any sponsorship of the message and could explain that the persons are communicating their own messages by virtue of state law...

We conclude that neither appellants' federally recognized property rights nor their First Amendment rights have been infringed by the California Supreme Court's decision recognizing a right of appellees to exercise state-protected rights of expression and petition on appellants' property."

The US Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Supreme Court of California.

Justice Vote: 9 Pro vs. 0 Con

  • Rehnquist, W. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Burger, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Brennan, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Stewart, P. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Marshall, T. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Stevens, J.P. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • White, B. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Powell, L. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Blackmun, H. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)

    The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged affirmance of the Supreme Court of California's judgment; the Supreme Court affirmed in a 9-0 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.