BREAKING NEWS: California Court of Appeals Protects Right to Display “Grisly and Gruesome” Abortion Imagery under California Constitution

Santa Ana, California (July 2, 2019) — Earlier this year, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel Robert Muise argued an important pro-life speech case before a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeals.  Today, the Court of Appeals ruled in our favor on the main issue presented: whether a ban on “grisly and gruesome” imagery violates the California Constitution.

AFLC filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR) and its Executive Director, Gregg Cunningham, against The Irvine Company, the owner of the Irvine Spectrum Center and Fashion Island, two large shopping centers located in southern California.

At issue was whether the Irvine Company’s speech restriction prohibiting “grisly and gruesome” imagery as applied to restrict our clients’ abortion-related imagery violates the free speech provision of the California Constitution.

Unlike the First Amendment, which only applies to state action, under the California Constitution, large shopping malls are considered public forums for free speech, and private entities, such as The Irvine Company, may be liable for violating California’s liberty of speech clause.

The trial court upheld The Irvine Company’s speech restriction.  And today, the California Court of Appeals reversed, stating, in relevant part:

[The challenged speech restriction] is a content-based restriction that does not survive strict scrutiny review.  So, we reverse the portion of the judgment finding the restriction on grisly or gruesome displays constitutional, and we remand to the trial court with directions to enter an amended judgment declaring it unconstitutional and enjoining its enforcement.

This is a huge and important victory for the right to free speech.  Indeed, there is hope for the free speech rights of conservatives when a California appellate court upholds the right of a pro-life organization to display abortion imagery in private shopping centers under the California Constitution.