OLR Research Report

August 17, 2004




By: Susan Price, Principal Analyst

You asked whether states that require privately owned malls to give access to their common areas to groups distributing literature or information (1) have broader free speech protections in their constitutions than Connecticut has or (2) have significantly greater citizen-driven initiative, referendum, and recall activity than Connecticut has.

Courts in five states (California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Washington) have ruled that their constitutions require privately owned shopping malls to allow people to seek petition signatures or distribute leaflets about political or societal issues under some circumstances. The New Jersey court relied solely on its constitution's free speech clause (New Jersey Coalition Against War in the Middle East v. J.M.B. Rewalty Corp., 138 N.J. 326 (1994)), and that clause is very similar to Article I 5 of Connecticut's constitution. Colorado's court also relied on its free speech clause, but limited its holding to shopping centers in which the government was involved in their operations (Bock v. Westminster Mall, 819 P.2d 55 (Colo. 1991)).

The California court based its holding on the state constitution's free speech and petition provisions (Robins v. Pruneyard Shopping Center, 23 Cal.3d 899 (1979)). Massachusetts relied on its freedom and equality of elections clause and limited the applicability of its holding to activities related to soliciting signatures on ballot questions (Batchelder v. Allied Stores International, 388 Mass. 83 (1982)). Similarly, Washington ruled that there was a right to solicit signatures at privately owned shopping centers under the state constitution's initiative provisions (Southcenter Joint Venture v. National Democratic Policy Committee (113 Wash.2d 413 (1989)). Connecticut's constitution does not have initiative or referendum provisions.

We enclose copies of the court rulings.