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Protesters can use casino's sidewalk, federal appeals panel rules

By The Associated Press

07.17.01

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LAS VEGAS, Nev. — A federal appeals court panel's ruling that protesters have the right to use a privately owned sidewalk in front of a Las Vegas Strip resort has First Amendment implications statewide, a civil rights group says.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 12 upheld a Las Vegas U.S. District Court judge's decision granting unions access to the sidewalks in front of the Venetian resort. The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada litigated the case.

"We regard this as a very big victory, probably one of the biggest the ACLU of Nevada has won in the courts," said Nevada ACLU President Richard Siegel of Reno. "It was a solid affirmation of free-expression rights and a broad interpretation of the concept of public access."

The resort's communications director Kurt Ouchida said the Venetian had not reviewed the ruling and could not say whether it would ask for another hearing in the 9th Circuit or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tom Stoneburner, director of the northern Nevada chapter of the Alliance for Workers Rights, called the case a major civil rights issue.

"It's a matter of being able to express yourself on the sidewalks along with everybody else," he said. "If a casino wants to buy the sidewalk, do they also buy the right to stifle our right to protest?"

In March 1999, the Venetian filed a federal suit against Clark County and two unions, asking that a new sidewalk it built on the Las Vegas strip be declared private property even though it was open to the public. The suit came three days after the Culinary Union held a massive demonstration on the Venetian sidewalk against the hotel's labor policies.

A federal judge sided with the county and the unions, and both sides then argued the case in Reno last July before three appellate judges.

The 2-1 ruling issued last week was formally published, meaning it set precedent for all 10 states in the 9th Circuit.

"Legitimate protest will be a little bit easier for people who want to exercise their constitutional right," said Andy Barbano, editor of NevadaLabor.com. "It will be far less dangerous for people who in the past have been forced by powerful corporations into the street."

Update

High court won't hear casino's bid to bar sidewalk protests
Lower courts had ruled unions had right to demonstrate on walkway in front of Las Vegas resort.  03.04.02

Previous

Civil libertarians balk at casino's suit that seeks to close sidewalks
ACLU officials say group will intervene in federal claim filed by Las Vegas resort, which is site of union protests.  03.08.99

Related

Free Expression on Private Property
Research package for Free Expression on Private Property.  06.20.01

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