Who owns Target’s front door?

This morning in San Diego, a judge will listen to arguments as to why canvassers should or shouldn’t be allowed to seek signatures on petitions and donations in support of gay marriage.

Target is suing Canvass for a Cause because, it says in this court document, the group is interfering with its customers.

The filing comes from a security guard (which Target calls “executive team lead for assets protection.”).

Canvass for a Cause solicitors typically start by asking our customers if they support gay marriage. If the answer is yes, they ask our customers to sign a petition and for a credit-card donation. If the answer is no, they challenge the customers on their beliefs. Whenever our customers say no, whether it is about making a donation, signing a petition, or about support for gay marriage, the solicitors become angry and aggressive, continuing to challenge our customers on their morals. I have seen them tell our customers not to vote if they are unhappy with the customers’ views.

All Target stores have a no-soliciting policy and they’re private property anyway. As WCCO’s Jason DeRusha noted on Twitter a few minutes ago, they also ban the Salvation Army at Christmastime.

So what’s the big deal?

Apparently, it’s this. California recognizes free speech as trumping private property rights. (h/t: @lawnonymous)

Despite Hudgens’ clear statement of federal law, the California Supreme Court held in Robins v. Pruneyard Shopping Center that the free-speech and petition provisions of the California Constitution grant mall visitors a constitutional right to free speech that outweighs the private-property interests of mall owners. The California Supreme Court took the position that “all private property is held subject to the power of government to regulate its use for the public welfare.” In the unanimous 1980 decision Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state court’s decision, noting that its own reasoning in Lloyd “does not ex proprio vigore (“of its own force”) limit the authority of the State to exercise its police power” (power to regulate the use of private property) “or its sovereign right to adopt in its own Constitution individual liberties more expansive than those conferred by the Federal Constitution.” A state may, therefore, in the exercise of its power to regulate, adopt reasonable restrictions on private property, including granting greater freedom to individuals to use such property, so long as the restrictions do not amount to a taking without just compensation or contravene any other federal constitutional provision. (In this instance it would be a “taking” of a property owner’s right to exclude others.)

But Target says the courts have held that private stores inside private developers are not bound by that interpretation.

These cases make clear that Target stores are not themselves withìn the reach of the Pruneyard decision and that we do not need to allow people to use our property for expressive activity, Even in shopping malls that are within the reach of the Pruneyard decision, the right under Pruneyard is to use the common areas of the mall, not the area directly outside the Target store entrance. Individuals wishing to use the common areas within shopping malls should address the matter with the shopping mall owner or operator, not with Target.

  • justin

    Before malls and megastores there used to be a town square that actually was public property and free speech was free there. This is what the CA supreme court recognized in the Pruneyard decision. We have to ask ourselves, as a society, if we really want all our public space being corporate space.

    Target has stated they want to be the place where you go for everything. Speech has long been associated with commerce, especially in the US. Their goals cut both ways.

  • John P.

    It may or may not be their right, but I wish people would stop soliciting in front of stores and at my front door. If I want to sign your petition, support your cause, or buy your product I will find you. If you come to me, I will refuse on principle. Leave me alone, please.

  • justin

    Yes, it can be annoying, but sometimes being annoyed is the cost of living in a free society. I’m willing to pay.

  • Heather

    I think the canvassing approach is supremely annoying no matter what the cause, but if the Westboro folks can protest at funerals…

  • Aaron

    Assuming that the security guard’s comments are true, what offends me more that the solicitors being allowed in Target, is the fact that the solicitors disregard any “no” answer and continue to push people until they get the response they want. Or, simply disregard them as citizens that have a voice, by telling them not to vote anymore.

    This way of trying to solicit signatures and/or donations seems not only counterproductive, but oxymoronic. (“I want you to believe in my cause, but I won’t believe in yours.”)

  • kennedy

    Consider that allowing public use of space also allows public use by those promoting causes we disagree with. Do we want to run a gauntlet of white supremists to buy toothpaste?

  • Gary

    What were past rulings with Planned Parenthood? Army Recruitment Centers?