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AMALGAMATED FOOD EMPLOYEES UNION LOCAL 590 ET AL. v. LOGAN VALLEY PLAZA

decided: May 20, 1968.

AMALGAMATED FOOD EMPLOYEES UNION LOCAL 590 ET AL
v.
LOGAN VALLEY PLAZA, INC., ET AL.



CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA.

Warren, Black, Douglas, Harlan, Brennan, Stewart, White, Fortas, Marshall

Author: Marshall

[ 391 U.S. Page 309]

 MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question whether peaceful picketing of a business enterprise located within a shopping center can be enjoined on the ground that it constitutes an unconsented invasion of the property rights of the owners of the land on which the center is situated. We granted certiorari to consider petitioners' contentions that the decisions of the state courts enjoining their picketing as a trespass are violative of their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. 389 U.S. 911 (1967).*fn1 We reverse.

[ 391 U.S. Page 310]

     Logan Valley Plaza, Inc. (Logan), one of the two respondents herein, owns a large, newly developed shopping center complex, known as the Logan Valley Mall, located near the City of Altoona, Pennsylvania. The shopping center is situated at the intersection of Plank Road, which is to the east of the center, and Good's Lane, which is to the south. Plank Road, also known as U.S. Route 220, is a heavily traveled highway along which traffic moves at a fairly high rate of speed. There are five entrance roads into the center, three from Plank Road and two from Good's Lane. Aside from these five entrances, the shopping center is totally separated from the adjoining roads by earthen berms. The berms are 15 feet wide along Good's Lane and 12 feet wide along Plank Road.

At the time of the events in this case, Logan Valley Mall was occupied by two businesses, Weis Markets, Inc. (Weis), the other respondent herein, and Sears, Roebuck and Co. (Sears), although other enterprises were then expected and have since moved into the center. Weis operates a supermarket and Sears operates both a department store and an automobile service center. The Weis property consists of the enclosed supermarket building, an open but covered porch along the front of the building, and an approximately five-foot-wide parcel pickup zone that runs 30 to 40 feet along the porch. The porch functions as a sidewalk in front of the building and the pickup zone is used as a temporary parking place for the loading of purchases into customers' cars by Weis employees.

[ 391 U.S. Page 311]

     Between the Weis building and the highway berms are extensive macadam parking lots with parking spaces and driveways lined off thereon. These areas, to which Logan retains title, provide common parking facilities for all the businesses in the shopping center. The distance across the parking lots to the Weis store from the entrances on Good's Lane is approximately 350 feet and from the entrances on Plank Road approximately 400 to 500 feet. The entrance on Plank Road farthest from the Weis property is the main entrance to the shopping center as a whole and is regularly used by customers of Weis. The entrance on Plank Road nearest to Weis is almost exclusively used by patrons of the Sears automobile service station into which it leads directly.

On December 8, 1965, Weis opened for business, employing a wholly nonunion staff of employees. A few days after it opened for business, Weis posted a sign on the exterior of its building prohibiting trespassing or soliciting by anyone other than its employees on its porch or parking lot. On December 17, 1965, members of Amalgamated Food Employees Union, Local 590, began picketing Weis. They carried signs stating that the Weis market was nonunion and that its employees were not "receiving union wages or other union benefits." The pickets did not include any employees of Weis, but rather were all employees of competitors of Weis. The picketing continued until December 27, during which time the number of pickets varied between four and 13 and averaged around six. The picketing was carried out almost entirely in the parcel pickup area and that portion of the parking lot immediately adjacent thereto. Although some congestion of the parcel pickup area occurred, such congestion was sporadic and infrequent.*fn2

[ 391 U.S. Page 312]

     The picketing was peaceful at all times and unaccompanied by either threats or violence.

On December 27, Weis and Logan instituted an action in equity in the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County, and that court immediately issued an ex parte order enjoining petitioners*fn3 from, inter alia, "picketing and trespassing upon . . . the [Weis] storeroom, porch and parcel pick-up area . . . [and] the [Logan] parking area and all entrances and exits leading to said parking area."*fn4 The effect of this order was to require that all picketing be carried on along the berms beside the public roads outside the shopping center. Picketing continued along the berms and, in addition, handbills asking the public not to patronize Weis because it was nonunion were distributed, while petitioners contested the validity of the ex parte injunction. After an evidentiary hearing, which resulted in the establishment of the facts set forth above, the Court of Common Pleas continued indefinitely its original ex parte injunction without modification.*fn5

[ 391 U.S. Page 313]

     That court explicitly rejected petitioners' claim under the First Amendment that they were entitled to picket within the confines of the shopping center, and their contention that the suit was within the primary jurisdiction of the NLRB. The trial judge held that the injunction was justified both in order to protect respondents' property rights and because the picketing was unlawfully aimed at coercing Weis to compel its employees to join a union. On appeal the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, with three Justices dissenting, affirmed the issuance of the injunction on the sole ground that petitioners' conduct constituted a trespass on respondents' property.*fn6

We start from the premise that peaceful picketing carried on in a location open generally to the public is, absent other factors involving the purpose or manner of the picketing, protected by the First Amendment. Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88 (1940); AFL v. Swing, 312 U.S. 321 (1941); Bakery Drivers Local 802 v. Wohl, 315 U.S. 769 (1942); Teamsters Local 795 v. Newell, 356 U.S. 341 (1958). To be sure, this Court has noted that picketing involves elements of both speech and conduct, i. e., patrolling, and has indicated that because of this intermingling of protected and unprotected elements, picketing can be subjected to controls that would not be constitutionally permissible in the case of pure speech. See, e. g., Hughes v. Superior Court, 339 U.S. 460 (1950); International Bro. of Teamsters v. Vogt, Inc., 354 U.S. 284 (1957); Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 559 (1965); Cameron v. Johnson, 390 U.S. 611.

[ 391 U.S. Page 314]

     Nevertheless, no case decided by this Court can be found to support the proposition that the nonspeech aspects of peaceful picketing are so great as to render the provisions of the First Amendment inapplicable to it altogether.

The majority of the cases from this Court relied on by respondents, in support of their contention that picketing can be subjected to a blanket prohibition in some instances by the States, involved picketing that was found either to have been directed at an illegal end, e. g., Giboney v. Empire Storage & Ice Co., 336 U.S. 490 (1949); Building Service Employees Local 262 v. Gazzam, 339 U.S. 532 (1950); Plumbers Local 10 v. Graham, 345 U.S. 192 (1953), or to have been directed at coercing a decision by an employer which, although in itself legal, could validly be required by the State to be left to the employer's free choice, e. g., Carpenters Local 213 v. Ritter's Cafe, 315 U.S. 722 (1942) (secondary boycott); Teamsters Local 309 v. Hanke, 339 U.S. 470 (1950) (self-employer union shop). Compare NLRB v. Denver Bldg. & Const. Trades Council, 341 U.S. 675 (1951), and International Bro. of Electrical Workers v. NLRB, 341 U.S. 694 (1951).

Those cases are not applicable here because they all turned on the purpose for which the picketing was carried on, not its location. In this case the Pennsylvania Supreme Court specifically disavowed reliance on the finding of unlawful purpose on which the trial court alternatively based its issuance of the injunction.*fn7 It did emphasize that the pickets were not employees of Weis and were discouraging the public from patronizing

[ 391 U.S. Page 315]

     the Weis market. However, those facts could in no way provide a constitutionally permissible independent basis for the decision because this Court has previously specifically held that picketing of a business enterprise cannot be prohibited on the sole ground that it is conducted by persons not employees whose purpose is to discourage patronage of the business. AFL v. Swing, 312 U.S. 321 (1941). Compare Bakery Drivers Local 802 v. Wohl, 315 U.S. 769 (1942). Rather, those factors merely supported the court's finding of a trespass by demonstrating that the picketing took place without the consent, and against the will, of respondents.

The case squarely presents, therefore, the question whether Pennsylvania's generally valid rules against trespass to private property can be applied in these circumstances to bar petitioners from the Weis and Logan premises. It is clear that if the shopping center premises were not privately owned but instead constituted the business area of a municipality, which they to a large extent resemble, petitioners could not be barred from exercising their First Amendment rights there on the sole ground that title to the property was in the municipality. Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U.S. 444 (1938); Hague v. CIO, 307 U.S. 496 (1939); Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147 (1939); Jamison v. Texas, 318 U.S. 413 (1943). The essence of those opinions is that streets, sidewalks, parks, and other similar public places are so historically associated with the exercise of First Amendment rights that access to them for the purpose of exercising such rights cannot constitutionally be denied broadly and absolutely.

The fact that Lovell, Schneider, and Jamison were concerned with handbilling rather than picketing is immaterial so far as the question is solely one of right of access for the purpose of expression of views. Handbilling, like picketing, involves conduct other than speech,

[ 391 U.S. Page 316]

     namely, the physical presence of the person distributing leaflets on municipal property. If title to municipal property is, standing alone, an insufficient basis for prohibiting all entry onto such property for the purpose of distributing printed matter, it is likewise an insufficient basis for prohibiting all entry for the purpose of carrying an informational placard. While the patrolling involved in picketing may in some cases constitute an interference with the use of public property greater than that produced by handbilling, it is clear that in other cases the converse may be true. Obviously, a few persons walking slowly back and forth holding placards can be less obstructive of, for example, a public sidewalk than numerous persons milling around handing out leaflets. That the manner in which handbilling, or picketing, is carried out may be regulated does not mean that either can be barred under all circumstances on publicly owned property simply by recourse to traditional concepts of property law concerning the incidents of ownership of real property.

This Court has also held, in Marsh v. Alabama, 326 U.S. 501 (1946), that under some circumstances property that is privately owned may, at least for First Amendment purposes, be treated as though it were publicly held. In Marsh, the appellant, a Jehovah's Witness, had undertaken to distribute religious literature on a sidewalk in the business district of Chickasaw, Alabama. Chickasaw, a so-called company town, was wholly owned by the Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation. "The property consists of residential buildings, streets, a system of sewers, a sewage disposal plant and a 'business block' on which business places are situated. . . . The residents use the business block as their regular shopping center. To do so, they now, as they have for many years, make use of a company-owned paved street and sidewalk located alongside the store fronts in order to enter and

[ 391 U.S. Page 317]

     leave the stores and the post office. Intersecting company-owned roads at each end of the business block lead into a four-lane public highway which runs parallel to the business block at a distance of thirty feet. There is nothing to stop highway traffic from coming onto the business block and upon arrival a traveler may make free use of the facilities available there. In short the town and its shopping district are accessible to and freely used by the public in general and there is nothing to distinguish them from any other town and shopping center except the fact that the title to the property belongs to a private corporation." 326 U.S., at 502-503.

The corporation had posted notices in the stores stating that the premises were private property and that no solicitation of any kind without written permission would be permitted. Appellant Marsh was told that she must have a permit to distribute her literature and that a permit would not be granted to her. When she declared that the company rule could not be utilized to prevent her from exercising her constitutional rights under the First Amendment, she was ordered to leave Chickasaw. She refused to do so and was arrested for violating Alabama's criminal trespass statute. In reversing her conviction under the statute, this Court held that the fact that the property from which appellant was sought to be ejected for exercising her First Amendment rights was owned by a private corporation rather than the State was an insufficient basis to justify the infringement on appellant's right to free expression occasioned thereby. Likewise the fact that appellant Marsh was herself not a resident of the town was not considered material.

The similarities between the business block in Marsh and the shopping center in the present case are striking. The perimeter of Logan Valley Mall is a little less than 1.1 miles. Inside the mall were situated, at the time of trial, two substantial commercial enterprises with numerous

[ 391 U.S. Page 318]

     others soon to follow.*fn8 Immediately adjacent to the mall are two roads, one of which is a heavily traveled state highway and from both of which lead entrances directly into the mall. Adjoining the buildings in the middle of the mall are sidewalks for the use of pedestrians going to and from their cars and from building to building. In the parking areas, roadways for the use of vehicular traffic entering and leaving the mall are clearly marked out. The general public has unrestricted access to the mall property. The shopping center here is clearly the functional equivalent of the business district of Chickasaw involved in Marsh.

It is true that, unlike the corporation in Marsh, the respondents here do not own the surrounding residential property and do not provide municipal services therefor. Presumably, petitioners are free to canvass the neighborhood with their message about the nonunion status of Weis Market, just as they have been permitted by the state courts to picket on the berms outside the mall. Thus, unlike the situation in Marsh, there is no power on respondents' part to have petitioners totally denied access to the community for which the mall serves as a business district. This fact, however, is not determinative. In Marsh itself the precise issue presented was whether the appellant therein had the right, under the First Amendment, to pass out leaflets in the business district, since there was no showing made there that the corporate owner would have sought to prevent the distribution of leaflets in the residential areas of the town. While it is probable that the power to prevent trespass broadly claimed in Marsh would have encompassed such an incursion into the residential areas, the specific facts in the case involved access to property used for commercial purposes.

[ 391 U.S. Page 319]

     We see no reason why access to a business district in a company town for the purpose of exercising First Amendment rights should be constitutionally required, while access for the same purpose to property functioning as a business district should be limited simply because the property surrounding the "business district" is not under the same ownership. Here the roadways provided for vehicular movement within the mall and the sidewalks leading from building to building are the functional equivalents of the streets and sidewalks of a normal municipal business district. The shopping center premises are open to the public to the same extent as the commercial center of a normal town. So far as can be determined, the main distinction in practice between use by the public of the Logan Valley Mall and of any other business district, were ...


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