Does the First Amendment Apply to Lowe’s Parking Lot?

Lowes First Amendment Opinion Have you ever been pissed off at a business and decided to take action by standing in its parking lot, holding up a protest sign? Me neither, but apparently Anthony V. Laterza did, but then the cops came and the hassling began and then the whole lawsuit stuff started.

It all wound up in front of Judge Marra, who had to grapple with the question of First Amendment rights on private property, throwing us all the way back to law school again:

By removing Plaintiff from the parking lot, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant has denied him his First Amendment right to free speech and he seeks a declaratory judgment to allow him to continue to exercise his right of free speech in the parking lot without facing the threat of arrest. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 28-32.)

Defendant moves for judgment on the pleadings, claiming that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is a prohibition on government action and Plaintiff has no First Amendment right to picket on Defendant’s private property. In addition, Defendant has filed a motion to stay discovery until a ruling has been entered on the motion for judgment on the pleadings. In response, Plaintiff contends that he should be able to develop the facts of the case through discovery to prove any differences between the instant action and the cases cited by Defendant.

Boy this is an interesting question. Let’s see how the Court ruled:

For the foregoing reasons, the Court grants Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. Plaintiff’s complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted as a matter of law. Allowing Plaintiff to amend his complaint would be futile. Plaintiff cannot in good faith claim that the parking lot in question was public, not private property. As a result, Defendant’s motion to stay discovery is denied as moot.

Ok, for some reason I thought there were more considerations than that — distributing flyers in malls etc?