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Under U.S. Const. amend. I, private individuals do not have an unqualified right to engage in free expression and assembly on private property.
Respondents Timothy Dee Wilson and Michaelene Jenkins were antiabortion activists regularly protesting and distributing literature to Planned Parenthood’s patients. Declarations described the respondents’ activities as aggressively approaching patients of Planned Parenthood; verbally harassing them; chasing them up the driveway to the entrance of the Medical Center; and walking very slowly across the driveway entrance to deter patients from entering, a ploy which forced some patients to park at nearby restaurants and return by foot to face verbal harassment. When arrests did not deter the continuing harassment tactics, Planned Parenthood finally sought injunctive relief, which the trial court granted. The order prohibited the respondents from demonstrating in the parking lot and on the portion of the sidewalk crossing the driveway to the parking lot of Planned Parenthood. The respondents appealed, arguing that the preliminary injunction was unconstitutionally overbroad because it unreasonably restricted their ability to reach their targeted audience, i.e. persons who were about to enter Planned Parenthood's facility to seek abortion services or reproductive advice which may include abortion as an option. They contended that prohibiting their access to the parking lot, which they characterized as a public forum, abridged their fundamental rights of freedom of expression.
Was the parking lot of a private medical center devoted to public use that it could be deemed the functional equivalent of a traditional public forum for the expression of speech?
The court affirmed the order and held that the privately owned medical center that contained respondent was not so devoted to public use that it could be deemed the functional equivalent of a public forum. The court held that although the United States Supreme Court did not consider shopping centers as performing the same role as public forums of the past, the California Supreme Court firmly considered the former to be the functional equivalent of the latter, and a state could give greater protection to individual liberties in its own constitution than was conferred by the federal constitution. The court held that Cal. Const. art. I, § 2 protected first amendment rights when exercised in a public place. The court held that respondent's medical center had not been devoted to general public use nor acquired the attributes of a public forum, and was not the functional equivalent of a public place.