Calif. SC to hear long-running airport access case

Chris Rizo Jan. 5, 2010, 1:00pm

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline)-The long-running legal battle between the city of Los Angeles and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness will reach the California Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The state's high court was asked by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to determine whether an airport is a "public forum" under state law.

The federal appeals court, based in San Francisco, made the request, saying that the state court's ruling will help it decide whether the International Society for Krishna Consciousness may solicit donations at the Los Angeles International Airport.

The Hare Krishna group is challenging a Los Angeles city ordinance passed in 1997 that bars solicitations of donations at the airport. Until the lawsuit is settled, the airport in 2002, began allowing limited solicitation in restricted areas.

"We conclude that the potential conflict between the application of the First Amendment and the California Constitution regarding freedom of speech at California's airports is one that the California Supreme Court should have the opportunity to address and resolve," the federal appeals court said in 2008.

In a legal brief filed by a group of California cities, officials argued that state airports are not public forums.

"Airports have always been designed, constructed and operated for one purpose - to facilitate the safe and efficient transport of passengers and cargo," wrote Danny Chou, chief of complex and special litigation for the San Francisco City Attorney's Office.

"People do not go to airports to meet and talk, to socialize, to be entertained, or to spend time," he continued. "Indeed, airports have never been places where people have congregated in order to communicate with each other."

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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