Friday, May 27, 2011

6th Circuit Invalidates Ban On Leafleting Outside Dearborn's Arab International Festival

In Saieg v. City of Dearborn(6th Cir., May 26, 2011), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, held unconstitutional on free speech grounds the city of Dearborn's leafleting restrictions that barred a Christian group from proselytizing on public sidewalks surrounding the city's annual Arab International Festival. The decision comes in time for the 2011 Festival which will be held June 17-19. The court held that while the leafleting restriction is content neutral, it does not further a substantial governmental interest. The adjacent inner perimeter sidewalks are kept open for public traffic and sidewalk vendors are permitted to operate there. Leafleting is no more disruptive than the sidewalk tables in the same area. Leafleting restrictions on outer perimeter sidewalks do not implicate a substantial interest in crowd control merely because the proselytizers might attract a few listeners. The city's interest there is in vehicular traffic control and parking. Assuming this to be a substantial interest, the restriction on pedestrian leafleting is substantially broader than necessary to further this interest.

Judge Daugherty filed a one paragraph dissent, relying on the district court's reasoning (see prior posting) that found the leafleting restrictions to be a reasonable time, place and manner restriction. The Dearborn Press and Guide reports on the decision. The 6th Circuit had previously issued a preliminary injunction to cover last year's Festival.