Court Says California Mall Can't Ban Customers From Talking To Each Other

The Westfield Galleria in Roseville, California takes the comfort of its patrons seriously–so seriously, in fact, that it wants them to shut up and focus on shopping, or else ask for permission first if they want to talk about any topic that’s not mall related. Last week, the state’s 3rd District Court of Appeal found that the rule violated the state’s constitution, so now mall shoppers can gab as much as they want to each other.

The rule seemed designed to protect patrons from unwanted sermons or pitches; it prevented a person 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.” In fact, it was used by the mall’s security guard to make a citizen’s arrest of a youth minister who was proselytizing at the mall, which is what led to the lawsuit.

But really, the mall was pretty serious about enforcing the no-talking rule regardless of topic:

The opinion quotes from the deposition of Gavin Farnam, the senior general manager of the Galleria.

“If you’re going to talk about any other subject (other than the mall) … then you’re prohibited from going up to strangers and speaking to them, is that correct?” he was asked by a Snatchko attorney.

“That’s not correct,” Farnam testified. “It doesn’t prohibit you. It just means you have to come in and fill out the application for third-party access for noncommercial” speech.

What if, the attorney postulated, he is excited about the Super Bowl and says to a stranger, “Hey, hope you’re supporting the Patriots,” or “Hope you’re supporting the Giants this week.” Would that violate the rules? he asked.

“You can go in and again fill out a third-party access, if that’s what a person chooses to do,” said Farnam.

“Roseville galleria’s rules deny free speech, state appeals court says” [The Sacramento Bee] (Thanks to Alice!)

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