Court rejects city’s appeal in Fremont Street Experience dispute
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A federal appeals court has rejected the city of Las Vegas’ request to reconsider a July ruling that the Fremont Street Experience is a public forum where all speech activities are constitutionally protected.
In a decision handed down Tuesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the city’s petition for an “en banc” hearing where all 11 judges on the court could reconsider last month’s ruling made by a three-judge panel.
None of the 11 judges called for a vote on the city’s motion for a rehearing, resulting in a denial of the request, according to the decision filed last week.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, one of several groups that sued the city and the Fremont Street Experience in 1997, lauded the decision and called for the city to stop appealing the ruling.
“One would certainly hope that we have now finally reached the end of the line on this, and the city will see fit to stop wasting any more taxpayer money trying to defend the indefensible,” said Gary Peck, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada. “They should respect the First Amendment.”
On July 2, the three judges ruled that the $70 million remodeling of Fremont Street with a giant canopy, high-tech laser-light show and spruced-up sidewalks did not alter the area’s status as a public forum.
That decision reversed previous rulings by U.S. District Judge David Hagen in Las Vegas that permitted distribution of noncommercial leaflets at the Fremont Street Experience, but allowed the city and the Fremont Street Experience to turn away commercial solicitors.
The city argued the closure of Fremont, construction of a lighted canopy over the street and its maintenance by a private company have turned it into a private promenade.
“They still have an opportunity to have the Supreme Court to hear it, but I don’t think they’ll take it up,” said Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the ACLU of Nevada. “There can be no dispute. It is clearly a public forum.”