Board of Airport Commissioners of the City of Los Angeles v. Jews for Jesus, Inc.

PETITIONER: Board of Airport Commissioners of the City of Los Angeles
RESPONDENT: Jews for Jesus, Inc.
LOCATION: Craig, Colorado

DOCKET NO.: 86-104
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 482 US 569 (1987)
ARGUED: Mar 03, 1987
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1987

ADVOCATES:
James R. Kapel - Argued the cause for the petitioners
Jay Alan Sekulow - Argued the cause pro hac vice for the respondents

Facts of the case

The Board of Airport Commissioners of Los Angeles adopted an ordinance which prohibited all "First Amendment activities" in the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Alan Snyder, a minister with Jews for Jesus, was instructed by an airport officer to refrain from distributing free religious literature on a walkway in the central terminal of LAX.

Question

Did the Los Angeles ordinance violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution?

Media for Board of Airport Commissioners of the City of Los Angeles v. Jews for Jesus, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 03, 1987 in Board of Airport Commissioners of the City of Los Angeles v. Jews for Jesus, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear arguments first this morning in No. 86-104, Board of Airport Commissioners of the City of Los Angeles versus Jews for Jesus and others.

Mr. Kapel, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

James R. Kapel:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case involves whether the Board of Airport Commissioners legally have restricted the uses of their terminal facilities to their intended airport related purposes only, or whether they must allow the Jews for Jesus and others to use those facilities for their own particular non-airport-related activities.

The determinative issues in this case is whether the interiors of the terminal facilities at the Los Angeles International Airport are public forums or nonpublic forums.

That issue is determinative because it defines the standard that should be applied when reviewing the Board's policy limiting the uses of the terminal facilities.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Kapel, may I ask a preliminary question or two?

There was a resolution passed by the airport board, whatever it's called.

James R. Kapel:

Yes, the Board of Airport Commissioners.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Was that resolution binding without city council approval?

James R. Kapel:

It is binding without city council approval.

It does not have a criminal penalty associated with it without the city council approval.

So it is a rule--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Has the city council ever approved it in fact?

James R. Kapel:

--No, it has not been presented to the city council.

The Board of Airport Commissioners has the power and ability to adopt rules and regulations regarding the use of the airport.

They cannot adopt criminal penalties.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And in another preliminary inquiry, would the airport be a public forum under California constitutional law?

James R. Kapel:

No, I don't believe so.

Under California constitutional law, I believe it tracks very closely the federal law in this case.

There are some distinctions.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

How about the Hoffman case making a railroad terminal a public forum?

James R. Kapel:

In that case there was no indication that the owner of the property ever attempted to restrict the uses of the terminal facilities.

In addition, as a--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Was the state law point argued in the courts below?

James R. Kapel:

--Yes, it was argued.

Neither court addressed those issues.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Thank you.

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

May I ask a question before you proceed, Mr. Kapel?

Has this ordinance ever been enforced against anyone?