United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division
JAMES A. JURACEK and INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED AUTOMOBILE, AEROSPACE, & AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA UAW, Plaintiffs,
CITY OF DETROIT, CITY OF DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT and COBO CENTER, Operated by DETROIT REGIONAL CONVENTION FACILITY AUTHORITY, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
Denise Page Hood, United States District Judge
On January 27, 2014, Plaintiffs James Juracek and the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (“UAW”) filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. [Docket No. 56] Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants are liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for attempting to violate Plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech by prohibiting Plaintiffs from displaying their signs on the sidewalk on the west side of Washington Boulevard adjacent to the Cobo Center during both the 2013 and the 2014 Auto Show. Defendant Cobo Center filed a Response to this Motion on February 17, 2014, [Docket No. 58] and Plaintiffs filed a reply on March 6, 2014. [Docket No. 60] For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part.
Nissan North America, Inc. (“Nissan”) operates an automobile assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi. Workers at the Canton plant have sought an agreement with Nissan on an election process where the workers can vote on whether to form a union. The UAW has assisted with these efforts. Various community groups in Mississippi have also joined the efforts.
Juracek, an UAW representative, was responsible for coordinating public activities at the 2013 North American International Auto Show (the “Auto Show”). The Auto Show is a yearly automobile exhibition show held at Cobo Center. Cobo Center is located at 1 Washington Boulevard in Detroit, Michigan, and is operated by the Detroit Regional Convention Facility. On January 7, 2013, Juracek and another UAW member met with Auto Show Chief of Security Carl Berry and Cobo Center’s Manager of Public Safety and Security Bruce Smith. During that meeting, Juracek informed Berry that UAW members intended to display signs in ftlinerelation to the dispute with Nissan at the 2013 Auto Show. Berry indicated that signs could not be displayed inside Cobo Center, but displaying signs outside of Cobo Center was not his concern.
On January 14, 2013, Juracek and 15 others displayed signs at various points on the sidewalks adjacent to the Cobo Center, on the west side of Washington Boulevard. The signs were held by hand and displayed at chest level and those holding signs stood still. The signs were approximately 26 inches wide and 40 inches high and displayed the name and photograph of an employee at the Nissan facility in Canton, Mississippi with the words “Nissan Technician, Mississippi, Threatened by Nissan.” Shortly after Juracek and others began displaying the signs, Detroit Police Department officers told Juracek that the signs could not be displayed on the west side of Washington Boulevard because Cobo Center had advised them that its property extended to the edges of the streets surrounding the Center. The officers informed the group that they had to move to the east side of Washington Boulevard if they wanted to continue displaying their signs. The group complied.
Cobo Center Regional Vice President and General Manager Thom Connors called Juracek later that day (January 14, 2013), and they scheduled a meeting to be held on January 15, 2013, at the Cobo Center. Connors, Smith, and Berry, other Cobo Center representatives, and two Detroit Police Officers, including Lt. U. Renee Hall, met with Juracek. During this meeting, Connors indicated that the sidewalk space on the west of Washington Boulevard was Cobo Center property and signs could not be displayed there. Connors provided a property survey, which showed that the sidewalk space on the west of Washington Boulevard was in fact east of Cobo Center and a public sidewalk. Lt. Hall noted that the display of signs presented a safety concern, though he and the others in attendance failed to cite any authority for his conclusion. In their Complaint, Plaintiffs allege a violation of their first amendment rights by Defendants’ prohibition of distributing leaflets and displaying placards on the public sidewalk (Count I) and a violation of their first amendment rights by Defendants’ prohibition of distributing leaflets and displaying placards on the Cobo Center plazas and sidewalks (Count II).
It is apparent that all parties agree that the sidewalk on the west side of Washington Boulevard adjacent to the Cobo Center is a “public forum, ” therefore, by its nature, granting Plaintiffs freedom to exercise their First Amendment rights. It is also apparent that the parties have differing views on the exterior public plazas and sidewalks between the City sidewalk and the Cobo Center building stairways leading up to the entry door. The Court will address only the contested areas for purposes of this motion for summary judgment. The Court notes that the ordinance Defendants rely on states:
Any and all Demonstration Activities must be conducted outside of the Cobo Center on public property so as not to obstruct or interfere with traffic flow, entrances, exits, access to Cobo Center for the Authority, its employees, agents, permittees, licensees, vendors, contractors, Cobo Center security, law enforcement, fire department representatives, or any other invitees of the Authority (the “Authority’s Invitees”) or cause or create safety issues or concerns, unless otherwise specifically authorized in writing by the Authority.
[Def. Ex. K]. Demonstration Activities are defined as “any or all of picketing, leafleting, and/or demonstrations.” [Def. Ex. K]
On January 18, 2013, this Court entered an Order Granting Plaintiffs’ Motion for Temporary Restraining Order [Docket No. 11], enjoining Defendants “from prohibiting Plaintiffs from displaying placards on the west side of Washington Boulevard” for fourteen days following entry of the Order. On January 23, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a second Motion for Temporary Restraining Order moving this Court to “enjoin Defendants from prohibiting Plaintiffs from holding placards on the sidewalk on the west side of Washington Boulevard in the City of Detroit, Michigan adjacent to the Cobo Center; and on the plazas and sidewalks between the City sidewalks and the Cobo Center building during the 2014 North American International Auto Show.” [Docket No. 34. Pg ID 225] On January 10, 2014, this Court entered an Order granting Plaintiffs’ Motion. [Docket No. 48] Defendants filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit which entered an Order on January 16, 2014. [Docket No. 55] In this Order, the Court of Appeals granted, in part, Defendants’ appeal, determining to stay “the provision of the TRO enjoining the defendants from prohibiting the plaintiffs from holding placards and leafleting on the ‘front porch, ’ plaza areas, and staircases leading to the entry doors of the Cobo Center Building” and leave in effect this Court’s determination as to the “median” area and the public sidewalk on the west side of Washington Boulevard from Jefferson Avenue to Congress Avenue. [Id.]
In their Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiffs argue that they are exercising rights protected by the First Amendment. Plaintiffs contend that “Cobo Center’s prohibition on Plaintiffs holding placards on the City of Detroit’s public sidewalks and Cobo Center’s public exterior sidewalks and plazas violates their constitutional rights” because the spaces are “traditional public forums” that are “held in trust for the use of the public” for the purposes of “communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions.” [Docket No. 56. Pg ID 661] Plaintiffs claim that Defendant Cobo Center’s restriction on the use of the space does not meet the standard required for content-based limitations because the restrictions do not “pass strict scrutiny” as Defendant Cobo Center has failed to “demonstrate that [the] regulation is the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling government interest.” [Id. at 662]
As to the language of the restriction itself, Plaintiffs assert that the Picketing, Leafletting and Demonstration Ordinance “prohibits all demonstration activities, including leafletting, the display of signs, bills and pamphlets, picketing and/or any other means of articulating a cause” and “designates the entire Cobo Center, including the exterior sidewalks and plazas as a non-public forum, and states ‘no picketing, leafletting and/or demonstrations are permitted in the Cobo Center by the general public’ and ‘any and all Demonstration Activities in Cobo Center require a written license or permit (License) issued by the Authority.’” [Id. at 670-71] Plaintiffs argue that Defendant Cobo Center’s “unfettered control . . . to determine whether demonstration activities can occur on Cobo” and the fact that the Authority, “in its sole discretion, may deny a license to individuals or groups seeking to engage in demonstration activities because the Authority’s contractors, customers or clients disagree with the message of the demonstrators” makes the ordinance per se unconstitutional. [Id. at 671-72] Lastly, Plaintiffs argue that the Picketing Ordinance’s 30 day requirement for seeking a permit ...