A federal court rejected on Wednesday a request for a temporary restraining order filed by the group representatives of the AIDS Walk Los Angeles (AWLA) annual event, who filed a claim in the United States District Court alleging First Amendment violations in light of the City of Santa Monica’s policy against non-commercial advertising on the Big Blue Bus (BBB) system.
Ninth Circuit Judge R. Gary Klausner issued the decision.
“Plaintiffs cannot demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits. The Ninth Circuit has held that a non-commercial ban on advertising on municipal buses is constitutional provided the restriction is reasonable and view-point neutral,” Klausner stated in his decision. “Here, plaintiffs fail to demonstrate that the ban was unreasonable, viewpoint-based, or enforced in a manner that violated Plaintiffs’ Equal Protection rights.”
Craig Miller, founder and producer of AWLA, alleged in the federal lawsuit that City Hall’s enforcement of a longstanding policy limiting the BBB’s advertising to commercial vendors was illegal. AWLA and its overseeing partner, AIDS Project Los Angeles, was considered a non-commercial vendor by City Hall and prevented from advertising with BBB.
The sponsors of AWLA had sought to purchase advertisement space on the City’s buses in order to promote the AIDS Walk Los Angeles signature annual event, scheduled for this Sunday, Oct. 14 in West Hollywood. Miller and AWLA’s supporters hoped the temporary restraining order would be granted so they could advertise the event on local buses in time.
“The City is pleased,” City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie said in a statement. “The Court reaffirmed cities’ authority to place reasonable limits on bus advertising, which is exactly what Santa Monica has done.”
AWLA’s sponsors had advertised with BBB in years past despite City Hall’s policy, which was not fully enforced until recently.
At the city council’s Sept. 11 meeting, City Manager Rod Gould pointed out the allowance of non-commercial advertising on the BBB in recent years was a failure of administration.
“The last thing we want to do is see our City’s policy set by unelected leaders focused on fear-based scenarios of what might happen,” Miller, a Santa Monica resident, told council members at its Oct. 2 meeting. “The last thing we want is for the City of Santa Monica to be governed by a policy of leaping before looking.”
Also named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit were MZA Events, Lisa Brisse, and Paloma Bennett.