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U.S. Supreme Court

Airport Comm'rs v. Jews for Jesus, 482 U.S. 569 (1987)

Board of Airport Commissioners of the City of Los Angeles

v. Jews for Jesus, Inc.

No. 86-104

Argued March 3, 1987

Decided June 15, 1987

482 U.S. 569


Petitioner Board of Airport Commissioners of Los Angeles adopted a resolution banning all "First Amendment activities" within the "Central Terminal Area" at Los Angeles International Airport. Respondents, a nonprofit religious corporation and a minister for that organization, filed an action in Federal District Court challenging the resolution's constitutionality, after the minister had stopped distributing free religious literature in the airport's Central Terminal Area when warned against doing so by an airport officer. The court held that the Central Terminal Area was a traditional public forum under federal law, and that the resolution was facially unconstitutional under the Federal Constitution. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: The resolution violates the First Amendment. It is facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment overbreadth doctrine regardless of whether the forum involved is a public or nonpublic forum (which need not be decided here). The resolution's facial overbreadth is substantial, since it prohibits all protected expression and does not merely regulate expressive activity that might create problems such as congestion or the disruption of airport users' activities. Under such a sweeping ban, virtually every individual who enters the airport may be found to violate the resolution by engaging in some "First Amendment activit[y]." The ban would be unconstitutional even if the airport were a nonpublic forum, because no conceivable governmental interest would justify such an absolute prohibition of speech. Moreover, the resolution's words leave no room for a narrowing, saving construction by state courts. Cf. Baggett v. Bullitt, 377 U. S. 360. The suggestion that the resolution is not substantially overbroad because it is intended to reach only expressive activity unrelated to airport-related purposes is unpersuasive. Much nondisruptive speech may not be airport related, but is still protected speech even in a nonpublic forum. Moreover, the vagueness of the suggested construction -- which would result in giving airport officials the power to decide in the first instance whether a given activity is airport-related -- presents serious constitutional difficulty. Pp. 482 U. S. 572-577.

785 F.2d 791, affirmed. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 482 U. S. 570

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. WHITE, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J.,joined, post, p. 482 U. S. 577.

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