(CN) – The U.S. Postal Service can ban people from collecting signatures on its sidewalks, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled.
The Initiative and Referendum Institute challenged a USPS regulation barring the collection of signatures for petitions, polls or surveys on USPS sidewalks. The regulation was too broad, the institute claimed, because it applied to sidewalks that were considered public forums.
U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts originally ruled for USPS, but the D.C. Circuit reversed and remanded for a determination on whether the regulation “abridges protected speech … in a good number of cases.”
In response, USPS modified the regulation. Petitioning is now allowed on sidewalks on the outer boundaries of postal property, which are indistinguishable from public sidewalks. But interior sidewalks, such as walkways leading from parking lots to the office, remain closed to solicitation.
The institute argued that the modified regulation is still unconstitutional, because a significant number of interior sidewalks are public forums. It also pointed out that since the regulation took effect in 2000, speech activity on postal sidewalks has dropped significantly.
Data showed that petitioning has occurred on sidewalks at 562 of the 6,053 post offices included in the survey.
Judge Roberts noted that only 79 percent of post offices responded to the survey, so the results might not be statistically accurate. Also, the survey did not distinguish between interior and exterior sidewalks, which proved fatal to the institute’s case.
Roberts found that an insufficient number of interior sidewalks can be considered public forums than would warrant an injunction.