Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Pruneyard Shopping Center
The PruneYard Shopping Center is a sprawling 250,000 square foot (23,000 m²) shopping center located in Campbell, California at the intersection of Campbell Ave. and Bascom Ave., just east of California Highway 17. It also features three office towers, one of which is the tallest building in the area outside of downtown San Jose, and an inn. It was built in 1964 and renovated in 1994.
The PruneYard's role in American constitutional law
In the late 1970s, the PruneYard was involved in a free speech dispute with some local high school students that ultimately went to the U.S. Supreme Court. See Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins, 447 U.S. 74 (1980). In American constitutional law, the PruneYard is famous for its role in establishing two important rules:
- under the California Constitution, individuals may peacefully exercise their right to free speech in parts of private shopping centers regularly held open to the public, subject to reasonable regulations adopted by the shopping centers
- under the U.S. Constitution, states can provide their citizens with broader rights in their constitutions than under the federal Constitution, so long as those rights do not infringe on any federal constitutional rights
This holding was possible because California's constitution contains an affirmative right of free speech which has been liberally construed by the California Supreme Court, while the federal constitution's First Amendment contains only a negative command to Congress to not abridge the freedom of speech. The Supreme Court rejected the shopping center's argument that California's free speech right amounted to a "taking" of the shopping center under federal constitutional law.
The vote to uphold the California decision was unanimous, although three justices disagreed with part of the reasoning in Justice William Rehnquist's opinion for the majority. Justices Thurgood Marshall, Byron White, and Harry Blackmun filed separate concurring opinions.
Because of the Pruneyard case, people who visit shopping centers in California may regularly encounter people seeking money or attention for various causes, including charitable solicitations, qualifying petitions for amendments to the state constitution, voter registration drives, and sometimes a panhandler. In turn, many shopping centers have posted signs to explain that they do not endorse the views of people exercising their right to free speech, and that if patrons do not give them money, the speakers will go away.
Although 39 other states have free speech clauses in their constitutions that look like California's — indeed, California borrowed its clause from a similar one in the New York Constitution — at least 13 of those states have refused to follow California in extending the right of free speech into private shopping centers. In refusing to follow Pruneyard, the state supreme courts of New York and Wisconsin both attacked it as an unprincipled and whimsical decision. See SHAD Alliance v. Smith Haven Mall, 488 N.E.2d 1211 (N.Y. 1985) and Jacobs v. Major, 407 N.W.2d 832 (Wis. 1987). Only New Jersey, Colorado, and Massachusetts have followed California, albeit with some reservations.
In the two decades since, the California Supreme Court has become much more conservative, especially after three liberal justices (including Chief Justice Rose Bird) were removed by the electorate in 1986 for their opposition to the death penalty.
In 2001, a 4-3 majority of the Court significantly narrowed Pruneyard by holding for a variety of reasons that California's free speech right does not apply to private apartment complexes — yet, they also refused to overrule Pruneyard. Golden Gateway Ctr. v. Golden Gateway Tenants Ass'n, 26 Cal. 4th 1013 (2001). Thus, California's right of free speech in private shopping centers still survives.
- http://www.pruneyard.com/ - The PruneYard's official Web site
- Cornell University Collection U.S. Supreme Court decision
- California Constitution, Article 1, Declaration of Rights (of which Section 2 was challenged in Pruneyard)
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