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Revenue earned from long-term commercial advertising could be jeopardized by a requirement that short-term candidacy or issue-oriented advertisements be displayed on car cards. Users would be subjected to the blare of political propaganda. There could be lurking doubts about favoritism, and sticky administrative problems might arise in parceling out limited space to eager politicians. In these circumstances, the managerial decision to limit car card space to innocuous and less controversial commercial and service oriented advertising does not rise to the dignity of a First Amendment violation. Were the Court to hold to the contrary, display cases in public hospitals, libraries, office buildings, military compounds, and other public facilities immediately would become Hyde Parks open to every would-be pamphleteer and politician. The Constitution does not require this.
Petitioner Harry Lehman, a candidate for state office, who was refused available advertising space on vehicles of a city transit system, brought this suit challenging the constitutionality of the municipal policy on which the refusal was based on not permitting political advertising but allowing other types of public transit advertising. The state courts declined to give Lehman relief. The Ohio Supreme Court held that the city's refusal did not violate a candidate's free speech or equal protection rights.
Is a city which operates a public rapid transit system and sells advertising space for car cards on its vehicles required by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to accept paid political advertising on behalf of a candidate for public office?
The Court held that the nature of the forum and conflicting interests involved remained important in determining the degree of protection afforded by the Amendment to the speech in question. Noting that the transit system's car cards were part of a commercial venture in which the city was engaged and that the city had consciously limited access to the spaces, the Court found no First Amendment forum.