Law School Case Brief
Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Def. & Educ. Fund - 473 U.S. 788, 105 S. Ct. 3439 (1985)
Control over access to a nonpublic forum can be based on subject matter and speaker identity so long as the distinctions drawn are reasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum and are viewpoint neutral. Although a speaker may be excluded from a nonpublic forum if he wishes to address a topic not encompassed within the purpose of the forum, or if he is not a member of the class of speakers for whose especial benefit the forum was created, the government violates U.S. Const. amend. I when it denies access to a speaker solely to suppress the point of view he espouses on an otherwise includible subject.
By Executive Order, participation in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), a charity drive aimed at federal employees, is limited to voluntary, tax-exempt, nonprofit charitable agencies that provide direct health and welfare services to individuals or their families, and legal defense and political advocacy organizations are specifically excluded. Participating organizations confine their fundraising activities to a 30-word statement submitted for inclusion in the CFC literature disseminated to federal employees. Undesignated contributions are distributed on a local level to certain participating organizations, and designated funds are paid directly to the specified recipient.
Respondent legal defense and political advocacy organizations brought an action in Federal District Court challenging their exclusion under the Executive Order on the grounds, inter alia, that the denial of the right to seek designated funds violated their First Amendment right to solicit charitable contributions. The District Court granted summary judgment in respondents' favor and enjoined the denial of their pending or future applications to participate in the solicitation of designated contributions. The Court of Appeals affirmed on the ground that the Government restrictions in question were not reasonable.
Was federal government's restriction of respondents from charitable solicitation literature unreasonable and violated respondents' solicitation rights?
On review, the Court reversed, holding that where brief solicitation in CFC literature facilitated the dissemination of views and ideas, solicitation was constitutionally protected speech. The Court determined that where the government limited access to the CFC and respondents sought access only to the CFC, the CFC was a nonpublic forum in which restrictions must be reasonable. Therefore, the Court remanded for a determination of whether the government's facially reasonable reasons were merely a pretext for viewpoint discrimination.
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