Bus Stop Ad Case Attorneys Present Their Sides

December 04, 2013

Attorneys sparred at the state Court of Appeals on Tuesday over whether cities have the right to reject advertising on bus shelters and other government-owned sites.

Alan Korwin bought space on Phoenix bus shelters to advertise firearms training and talk about gun rights, but the city says its policy only permits commercial ads. Assistant Phoenix Attorney David Schwartz argues the city is entitled to turn away political ads.

“There is a significant impact on revenues as well as the city's constitutional right to operate its business,” Schwartz said.

Korwin’s attorney, Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute acknowledged that cities have certain rights when they run a private business, like the bus shelters and the buses themselves but says those rights are not absolute.

“When the government owns a business, it does not create a Constitution-free zone,” Bolick said. “It is still acting as a state and it is still subject to the First Amendment and the Arizona Constitution.”

If Korwin wins it would limit the ability of governments to turn away political ads from places like publicly owned stadiums and arenas, where commercial ads are allowed.