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Wood v. State (Florida)

Wood v. State (Florida)

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Published by Charlie Grapski
Rights to free speech in quasi-public space such as a shopping mall.
Rights to free speech in quasi-public space such as a shopping mall.

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: Charlie Grapski on Nov 02, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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12/31/2011

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Only the Westlaw citation is currently available.Florida Circuit Court.Kevin E. WOOD, Appellant/Defendant,v.STATE of Florida Appellee/Plaintiff.No. 00-0644-MMM-A.Feb. 26, 2003.
Background:
Defendant was convicted in theCounty Court, Bay County, Elijah Smiley, J., of trespass. Defendant appealed.
Holdings:
The Circuit Court, Costello, J., held that:(1) as an issue of first impression, State Constitu-tion prohibits a private owner of a “quasi-public”place from using state trespass laws to excludepeaceful political activity, and(2) evidence was not sufficient to support convic-tion for trespass.Reversed and remanded.West Headnotes
[1] Constitutional Law 92 1460
92 Constitutional Law92XVII Political Rights and Discrimination92k1460 k. In General. Most Cited Cases(Formerly 92k82(8))
Trespass 386 84
386 Trespass386III Criminal Responsibility386k84 k. Defenses. Most Cited Cases(Formerly 92k82(8))State Constitution prohibits a private owner of a “quasi-public” place from using state trespasslaws to exclude peaceful political activity. West'sF.S.A. Const. Art. 1, § 5.
[2] Trespass 386 88
386 Trespass386III Criminal Responsibility386k88 k. Evidence. Most Cited CasesEvidence was not sufficient to support convic-tion for trespass; evidence indicated that defendantwas asked to leave the premises of shopping mallsolely based on his desire to conduct political activ-ity in the manner of collecting signatures for his pe-tition to run for office, and only testimony with re-gards to the mall's policy on political activity wasthat of mall manager who testified that the policyprohibited any solicitation of signatures for any pe-tition.An appeal from the County Court of Bay County.Elijah Smiley, Judge.Patrick J. Faucheux, III, forAppellant.C. Marie King, for Appellee.OPINIONCOSTELLO, J.
*1
Property rights are the core of the fabric of our society. Our country was, in part, founded toensure that property owners had the right to the freeuse and enjoyment of their land. The fundamentalnature of property rights creates tension however,when they compete with equally fundamental rightssuch as the right to free speech. Free speech serves“as a method of assuring individual self-fulfillment,as a means of attaining the truth, as a method of se-curing participation by the members of society, in-cluding political decision-making, and as a meansof maintaining the balance between stability andchange in society.”FN1The instant case presents asituation where these two fundamental rights clash.FN1. See THOMAS I. EMERSON, TO-WARD A GENERAL THEORY OF THEFIRST AMENDMENT 3 (1963).FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY Page 1Not Reported in So.2d, 2003 WL 1955433 (Fla.Cir.Ct.)
(Cite as: 2003 WL 1955433 (Fla.Cir.Ct.))
© 2011 Thomson Reuters. No Claim to Orig. US Gov. Works.
 
FactsThe Appellant, Wood, is appealing his convic-tion for trespass as the result of a trial by jury. Thepertinent facts are as follows. The Appellant de-cided to run for political office in 1999. In order toget his name on the ballot without having to pay aqualifying fee he began to collect enough signaturesto waive the fee. Wood then decided that thePanama City Mall would be the best place to collectsignatures and he began to solicit such signatures atthe Mall. After several previous visits to the Mall,Mr. Wood was approached by Mall security on theevening of February 5, 2000, and told that he wasin violation of rules regulating the Mall. Mr. Woodwas told to either stop soliciting signatures or leave.The Appellant chose to stay and was ultimately ar-rested for trespass by officers from the Panama CityPolice Department. Wood was tried by jury andfound guilty of trespass. This appeal ensued.LawOne of the first cases dealing with the issue of requiring shopping mall owners to allow access totheir premises for those desiring to exercise theirFirst Amendment rights arose in
Marsh v.. Alabama,
326 U.S. 501, 66 S.Ct. 276, 90 L.Ed. 265(1946). A suburb of Mobile, Alabama, Chickasaw,was wholly owned by Gulf Shipbuilding Corpora-tion. The property was open to the public and con-tained residential buildings, streets, a sewer system,and a business district. Policing was performed by adeputy of the Mobile County Sheriff, who was paidby the corporation. A Jehovah's Witness stood onthe sidewalk next to the post office to distribute re-ligious literature. He was asked to leave the corpor-ation's property but refused and was arrested forcriminal trespass.The United States Supreme Court, resolved theissue by holding that Chickasaw, the “companytown”, could not curtail First Amendment libertiesfor several reasons. First, “ownership does not al-ways mean absolute dominion,especially whenprivate ownership is permitted to operate a town insuch a manner to be a de facto municipality.
Id.
at506. Second, when balancing the competing consti-tutional rights, the Court stated that First Amend-ment rights occupy a preferred status, because theFirst Amendment “lies at the foundation of freegovernment by free men.”
Id.
at 509.
*2
The Supreme Court shaped the law in thisarena in various cases until arriving at the seminalcase of 
Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins,
447U.S. 74, 100 S.Ct. 2035, 64 L.Ed.2d 741 (1980).There, the shopping center had a strict policy of prohibiting public expressive activity. This policywas enforced against a group of students solicitingsignatures for a petition against the United Nations'stance on Zionism. The group was promptly askedto leave by security, which they did. The studentsthen filed suit against the shopping center claimingit violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and the CaliforniaConstitution. The California Supreme Court heldthat the California Constitution “protects speechand petitioning, reasonably exercised, in shoppingcenters even when the centers are privately owned.”
 Robins v. Pruneyard Shopping Center,
23 Cal.3d899, 153 Cal.Rptr. 854, 592 P.2d 341 (Cal.1979).The shopping center sought certiorari, contendingthat a state constitutional provision cannot usurp aconstitutionally established right under the Four-teenth Amendment.The United States Supreme Court rejected theshopping center's blanket claim that “a privateproperty owner has a First Amendment right not tobe forced by the State to use his property as a for-um for the speech of others.”
Pruneyard,
447 U.S.at 85. The Court held that a State could, consistentwith the Federal Constitution, prohibit the privateowner of a shopping center from using state tres-pass law to exclude peaceful expressive activity inthe open areas of the shopping center.Florida's Constitutional Protections[1] Thus, the critical question is whether Flor-ida's Constitution affords its citizens a similar rightto peaceful and expressive activity. Counsel forboth parties agree that this issue is one of first im-FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY Page 2Not Reported in So.2d, 2003 WL 1955433 (Fla.Cir.Ct.)
(Cite as: 2003 WL 1955433 (Fla.Cir.Ct.))
© 2011 Thomson Reuters. No Claim to Orig. US Gov. Works.
 
pression in this state. Our sister states that have ad-dressed this same issue appear to be fairly split oneither side of the fence.FN2This state has long re-cognized that the exercise of the right to petition isa form of democratic expression at its purest. Art. I§ 5, Fla. Const. This fundamental right is recog-nized in the First Amendment to the United StatesConstitution which states that Congress shall makeno law abridging the freedom to petition the Gov-ernment for a redress of grievances. Florida also re-cognizes the right of its people to petition the gov-ernment.
See Krivanek v. Take Back Tampa Politic-al Committee,
625 So.2d 840 (Fla.1993); Art. I § 5,Fla. Const. Citizens of this state should be entitledto no less protection than citizens of other states.Courts in this state have recognized this generallyaccepted principle that malls and other shoppingcenters are still private property, but have a“quasi-public” nature.
See State v. Woods,
624So.2d 739 (Fla. 5thDCA 1993). This Court holdsthat the Constitution of Florida prohibits a privateowner of a “quasi-public” place from using statetrespass laws to exclude peaceful political activity.FN2.
See Batchelder v. Allied Stores Inter-national, Inc.,
388 Mass. 83, 445 N.E.2d590 (Mass.1983)(finding state right topolitical speech on quasi-public property);
Commonwealth v. Tate,
495 Pa. 158, 432A.2d 1382 (Pa.1981);
Alderwood Assocs.v. Washington Envtl. Council,
96 Wash.2d230, 635 P.2d 108 (Wash.1981);
State v.Schmid,
84 N.J. 535, 423 A.2d 615(N.J.1980); but see
Minnesota v. Wicklund,
589 N.W.2d 793 (Minn.1999)(no right topolitical speech on private property);
Co-logne v. Westfarms Assocs.,
192 Conn. 48,469 A.2d 1201 (Conn.1984).
*3
This still does not end this Court's inquiry.Having held that the Florida Constitution grants cit-izens of this state the right of expression on a shop-ping mall owners's property, this Court must de-termine if the lower court erred in denying Wood'sMotion for Judgment of Acquittal. In reviewing anorder denying a motion for a judgment of acquittal,the appellate court must consider the evidence andall reasonable inferences from the evidence in alight most favorable to the state.
Woods v. State,
733 So.2d 980 (Fla.1999). Put in another light,courts should not grant a motion for judgment of acquittal unless the evidence is such that no viewfavorable to the state by the jury can be sustainedunder the law.[2] The undisputed testimony establishes thatWood was asked to leave the premises solely basedon his desire to conduct political activity in themanner of collecting signatures for his petition torun for office. The only testimony with regards tothe Mall's policy on political activity was that of theMall manager who testified that the policy prohib-ited any solicitation of signatures for any petition.Since the Mall's policy was absolute, this Courtneed not, and cannot, inquire into whether the re-strictions on Wood's right to engage in politicalactivity was reasonably and narrowly tailored suchthat the Mall could restrict Wood and other citizens'peaceful expressive activity. The policy, as estab-lished by the uncontradicted testimony, was thatthere was never a circumstance in which the Mallwould allow an individual or group to conductpolitical activity.FN3Such a policy runs afoul of the right to free speech and right of political expres-sion as set out by the Florida Constitution andamounts to no policy at all. Since Wood was exer-cising his right of political expression, his actionsare constitutionally protected and cannot form thebasis for a conviction of criminal trespass.FN3. If the policy established a specifictime or place that such activity may beconducted then it might not have run afoulof the constitutional protections based on areasonable restriction analysis. The abso-lute nature of the policy is what distin-guishes the instant case from that of 
Woods,
733 So.2d 980 (Fla.1999). It ispossible that a policy that allows citizensto conduct such activity under reasonableFOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY Page 3Not Reported in So.2d, 2003 WL 1955433 (Fla.Cir.Ct.)
(Cite as: 2003 WL 1955433 (Fla.Cir.Ct.))
© 2011 Thomson Reuters. No Claim to Orig. US Gov. Works.

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