Property does not lose its private character merely because the public is generally invited to use it for designated purposes such as a shopping mall. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of private property owners, as well as the First Amendment rights of all citizens, must be respected and protected.
Tanner sought to distribute handbills in the interior mall area of Lloyd Corp.’s large privately owned shopping center. Lloyd Corp. had a strict no-handbilling rule. Lloyd Corp.'s security guards requested Tanner under threat of arrest to stop the handbilling, suggesting that they could resume their activities on the public streets and sidewalks adjacent to but outside the center, which Tanner did. Tanner, claiming that Lloyd Corp.’s action violated their First Amendment rights brought this action for injunctive and declaratory relief. The District Court, stressing that the center is "open to the general public" and "the functional equivalent of a public business district,” held that Lloyd Corp's policy of prohibiting handbilling within the mall violated respondents' First Amendment rights. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
Did Lloyd Corp's policy of prohibiting handbilling within the mall violate the First Amendment rights?
The Supreme Court held that there had been no dedication of the privately owned shopping center to public use as to entitle the protesters to exercise therein the asserted First Amendment rights. There were no public streets or sidewalks within the shopping center, which was enclosed and entirely covered except for the landscaped portions of some of the interior malls where the distribution occurred. Although the stores closed at customary hours, the malls were not physically closed, as pedestrian window-shopping was encouraged. Moreover, the shopping center always had a strictly enforced policy against the distribution of handbills within its malls.