Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: June 17, 2019
  • Case #: 17-1702
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: KAVANAUGH, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, ALITO, and GORSUCH, JJ., joined. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, BREYER, and KAGAN, JJ., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

Operation of public access channels is not a traditional, exclusive public function; private entities that operate public access channels are not state actors and are not restricted by the First Amendment in their editorial discretion.

Under the state-action doctrine, a private entity may constitute a state actor when exercising a function “traditionally exclusively reserved to the State.” Jackson v. Metropolitan Edison Co., 419 U. S. 345, 352 (1974). Petitioner, a private nonprofit corporation, operates public access channels in New York. Respondents sued Petitioner for violating their First Amendment rights by suspending their access to the channels for the content of a film Respondents submitted. Petitioner moved to dismiss asserting it was not a state actor. The district court dismissed. The Second Circuit reversed in part, holding that Petitioner constituted a state actor because the government traditionally operates public access channels and such operation was delegated to Petitioner. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether the operation of public access channels on a cable system is a traditional, exclusive public function such that Petitioner’s editorial discretion over speech on the channels is subject to First Amendment restrictions. The Court held that operation of public access channels is not a traditional, exclusive public function. Even if a private entity opens its channels for speech by others, it still constitutes a private actor, and is not subject to First Amendment restrictions of its editorial discretion. REVERSED IN PART, and REMANDED.

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