SW Legal studies in Business

Authorities May Deny Permits for Gatherings That Do Not Meet Neutral Criteria
Description Supreme Court upheld a Chicago rule that requires users of public parks to apply for a permit for large gatherings. Permits may be denied to users who fail to qualify on specific grounds, such a lack of financial resources to cover possible damage. The regulation does not deny free speech since it is content neutral in its application.
Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words Free Speech; Regulation; Neutrality
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The Chicago Park District adopted a rule requiring individuals to obtain a permit before hosting large-scale events in public parks. The rule lists thirteen reasons why permits may be denied. Permit requests must be processed within four weeks, and the reason for denial of a permit must be provided. An appeals process is provided when permits are denied. A group advocating the legalization of marijuana had a request for a permit denied. It sued, contending the rule is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. The trial and appeals court upheld the rule; the plaintiffs appealed.

Affirmed. The rule is not subject-matter censorship, but a "content-neutral time, place and manner regulation" of the use of a public forum. The grounds for denying a permit have nothing to do with the content of speech; it is oriented at all activities that occur at public parks. Its objective is to assure preservation of facilities, prevent dangerous and unlawful uses, and assure financial accountability for damage caused by an event.

Citation Thomas v. Chicago Park District, 122 S.Ct. 775 (Sup. Ct., 2002)

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