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State court declares Roseville Galleria's speech rules unconstitutional

Sacramento Bee (2010-08-13) Denny Walsh

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State court declares Roseville Galleria's speech rules unconstitutional

Published Friday, Aug. 13, 2010

A state appellate court has declared that rules regulating talk among strangers at the Galleria at Roseville violate California Constitution free speech guarantees.

A Placer County judge earlier had thrown out the case, finding that the owner's rules of conduct pass constitutional muster.

But, in stark contrast, a three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal declared this week in a 43-page opinion that "the rules are unconstitutional on their face" under the state constitution.

The panel reversed Placer Superior Court Judge Larry D. Gaddis' ruling in favor of Westfield LLC, and sent the case back to him for further proceedings.

The specific rule at issue prohibits a person in the center's common areas from "approaching patrons with whom he or she was not previously acquainted for the purpose of communicating with them on a topic unrelated to the business interests" of the mall or its tenants.

The case centered of efforts by Matthew Snatchko, a 27-year-old youth pastor, to share his Christian faith. Snatchko, a Roseville resident, often went to the Galleria, the largest shopping mall in Northern California. While in a common area one evening, he approached three young women who agreed to talk with him on subjects that included principles of his faith.

A store employee called security and an officer responded and told Snatchko to stop talking to the women or leave the mall. When he refused, the officer called for backup and a senior security officer responded and ordered Snatchko out. He again refused, and found himself under "citizen's arrest," handcuffed and turned over to Roseville police.

He was booked and released, and when he appeared in court for arraignment, all charges were dropped. The Placer County district attorney's office agreed that Snatchko was "factually innocent," and a Superior Court judge took the unusual step of issuing an order making a formal finding of factual innocence.

Snatchko sued Westfield, Professional Security Consultants, the security firm employed at the Galleria, and Richard Flores, the officer who made the arrest. He seeks monetary damages in an unspecified amount for false imprisonment, assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, malicious prosecution, and a general violation of his rights under California's Unruh Civil Rights Act.

Writing on behalf of the unanimous appellate panel, Associate Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye concluded "the rules allow conversation between strangers on matters related to the Galleria....while prohibiting peaceful, consensual, spontaneous conversations between strangers in common areas of the mall on topics unrelated to the....mall."

The rules also provide that an application may only be for proposed conversation between two persons, thus prohibiting altogether talk among more than two unacquainted persons on subjects other than the Galleria, she noted.

Westfield spokeswoman Katy Dickey said in a prepared statement: "We are disappointed that the court of appeals determined that the rules in question did not satisfy the required legal standard for reasonable time, place and manner restrictions. We are reviewing the court's decision and will consider our options....including appeal to the California Supreme Court."

Matthew Mc Reynolds, an attorney for Matthew Snatchko, a 27-year-old youth pastor who challenged the rules, hailed the decision as "a huge victory for free speech and common sense. The opinion is a great credit to Justice Cantil-Sakauye - very thorough, well thought-out."

Acting Presiding Justice Ronald B. Robie and Associate Justice M. Kathleen Butz joined in the opinion.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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Title State court declares Roseville Galleria's speech rules unconstitutional
Publisher Sacramento Bee
Author Denny Walsh
Pub Date 2010-08-13
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Keywords COPs Program
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Media Group News
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Topic revision: r1 - 21 Aug 2010, RaymondLutz
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