Free Speech, the First Amendment, and Time, Place and Manner Restrictions in Public Spaces
The Sacramento Hmong New Year Organization leased the Cal Expo fairgrounds to host the group’s 2018 Hmong New Year Festival in 2018. (The Hmong people are an indigenous group originally from East and Southeast Asia.) The festival took place over four days in the fall of that year and attracted nearly 30,000 attendees. Vendors paid to rent booths and attendees were required to purchase a ticket for entry.
Burt Camenzind is an Evangelical Christian who hoped to spread the message of his faith at the festival. He arrived at the fairgrounds wearing a vest covered in pockets, each filled with custom coins bearing biblical verses and other religious messages, some in the Hmong language. Camenzind intended to distribute the coins to festival attendees as he talked to them, one-on-one, about his religion.
The Cal Expo is owned by the state of California Exposition and State Fair Fairgrounds in Sacramento County. About half of the 800-acre property is surrounded by fencing, within which are various indoor and outdoor event facilities, and is accessible only through entry gates. The area outside of the fence largely consists of parking lots and sidewalks leading to the gates. The Cal Expo Police Department provides security for all events that take place on the grounds.
Upon Camenzind’s arrival, his bulging pockets attracted the attention of the Cal Expo Police. Cal Expo officers told him he could distribute his tokens only from designated “Free Speech Zones,” located just outside the entry gates, and not from inside the gated-off festival itself. This was in accordance with Cal Expo’s “Free Speech Activities Guidelines” (the “Guidelines”) which govern all events at the fairgrounds. The Guidelines, in general, prohibit attendees from leafletting, picketing, or gathering signatures—collectively described as “free speech activities”—within the enclosed portion of the fairgrounds.
For privately hosted events, such as the Hmong New Year Festival, organizers typically prohibit attendees from soliciting other attendees to preserve value for those vendors who pay to rent booths. The Guidelines also restrict free speech activities outside the Expo’s gates to designated “Free Expression Zones,” located directly outside the entry gates, and available at no cost on a first-come, first-served basis. Anyone entering the enclosed portion of the fairgrounds must walk within a few dozen feet of these zones.
But Camenzind, who wished to enter the fenced-off areas to distribute his tokens, was not satisfied with having to remain in a Free Expression Zone. So he purchased a ticket and entered along with all the other festival attendees. Caught by the Cal Expo Police handing out his tokens, he was 86’d from the park. Asked if he could then use the “Free Expression Zones,” the officers told him “no,” that he had to leave the grounds altogether.
Camenzind filed suit in the Sacramento Superior Court (subsequently removed to the federal district court on the Cal Expo’s motion), arguing that the Cal Expo’s rules and his removal from the park violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Speech Clause of the California Constitution. The federal district (trial) court first granted Camenzind’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of the Cal Expo Police Officers’ refusal to allow him to use the Free Expression Zone after he’d been caught passing out his tokens inside the park. But otherwise, the federal district court ruled against Camenzind, finding the Cal Expo’s Guidelines to be constitutional; i.e., that they did not violate Camenzind’s right to free expression under the United States or California Constitutions. Camenzind appealed.