LEHMAN v. CITY OF SHAKER HEIGHTS
Harry Lehman was running for the Ohio House of Representatives in the 56th District, which included the city of Shaker Heights. Lehman wanted to have his campaign advertisements placed on the side of Shaker Heights' streetcars. Metromedia, Inc. was designated by the city to manage that advertising space. Metromedia's contract with the city prohibited it from placing political advertisements on the streetcars. It was allowed, however, to place advertisements from businesses and public service groups. Lehman's request was denied, and he sued in the Ohio Court of Appeals for Cuyahoga County alleging that Shaker Heights' policy violated his free speech rights. The Ohio Court of Appeals ruled for the city. The Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed the decision.
Did Shaker Heights' policy against political advertising on its streetcars violate the free speech clause of the First Amendment?
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly
No. In a 5-4 decision, the Court affirmed the Supreme Court of Ohio and found no violation of the First or Fourteenth Amendments. Writing for a plurality of four justices, Justice Harry A. Blackmun asserted that "no First Amendment forum is here to be found," as the streetcars did not qualify as a "public thoroughfare." Accordingly, the city "need not accept every proffer of advertising." The city could reject certain types of advertising as long as the policies were not "arbitrary, capricious, or invidious." Given the "reasonable legislative objectives" of minimizing "chances of abuse, the appearance of favoritism, and the risk of imposing upon a captive audience," Shaker Heights' policy was not unconstitutional.