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Real Estate Law

Real Cases in Real Estate By Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – January 25th, 2013 Update

Real Cases in Real Estate is a weekly update on real estate law, with legal principles illustrated and explained by lawsuits from around the country. The topics are wide-ranging for appeal to a broad spectrum of readers including lawyers, homeowners, investors and the general public. Andrea Lee Negroni, a Washington DC attorney and legal writer with 25 years of experience in financial services and mortgage law, contributes the case summaries.

Followers of Real Cases in Real Estate will learn and be entertained by lawsuits involving nuisance, trespass, zoning violations, deed restrictions, title insurance, public utilities, mechanics liens, construction defects, adverse possession, foreclosure and eviction, divorce and marital property rights, tenants' rights, and more. Real Cases in Real Estate uncovers the unpredictable, amusing, and sometimes outrageous disputes between next-door neighbors, contractors and homeowners, condo boards and residents, real estate brokers and homebuyers, and zoning administrators and developers.

Each fully cited case summary highlights the essential law of the case and explains the principal legal theories and concepts relevant to the outcome. Plain language treatment makes Real Cases in Real Estate accessible to lawyers and laymen alike.

Whether you follow real estate law professionally or as a hobby, you'll find something new and useful every week in Real Cases in Real Estate.

Updates for the Week of January 25th, 2013

 Right to Solicit Donations Outside a Privately Owned Grocery Store is Not Guaranteed Under California's Constitution.

Ralph's Grocery Store sought and won an injunction against the Missionary Church, whose members gathered on the store's adjacent sidewalks and walkways to solicit donations for the poor. The Church did not seek Ralph's permission to solicit there, because it claimed a Constitutional right to expression in an area open to the public. Ralphs had "uniform rules for expressive activity" with "time, place and manner restrictions," stating that individuals engaged in expressive activity must remain 20 feet from a store entrance.

Ralphs invited people onto its property only to shop and had no amenities such as plazas, walkways, or courtyards. The grocer did not encourage customers to congregate at the store except for shopping. Appealing the injunction, the Church relied on a California decision holding that "freedom of speech, without the permission of the store owner, is constitutionally protected on a privately owned sidewalk outside the doors of a single, free-standing grocery supermarket."

Both the United States Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court have held that peaceful picketing in a privately owned shopping mall is Constitutionally protected, but this position has been modified somewhat, limiting protected expression to expression that is related to the shopping center's commercial purpose. Thus, picketing a store at the mall is protected, because requiring picketers to express themselves elsewhere would surely dilute their message by "not calling attention to the problem which is the subject of the picketing." Further complicating the expression-at-the-mall situation is the fact that large shopping centers have become similar to town centers, where large numbers people father for various amenities, not just shopping. California courts have decided that in large town-center type shopping centers, expression is protected because the centers are like "public forums."

However, Ralph's was not a large shopping mall or a place with multiple amenities to attract the public. The Church members' solicitation activities had nothing to do with the operation of the grocery store. The Church had no grievance with Ralph's. Its members' solicitations were therefore neither expressions in a public forum, or diminished by the fact that they could not occur near the store. The California appeals court held that the protection of the church members' activities were not entitled to the highest level of speech protection and upheld the injunction.

RALPHS GROCERY COMPANY, v. MISSIONARY CHURCH OF THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST, 205 Cal. App. 4th 490; 2012 Cal. App. LEXIS 478 (April 25, 2012) [enhanced version available to subscribers].


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