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Santa Monica Can Bar AIDS Walk from Bus Ads, Judge Rules


Frank Gruber for Santa Monica City Council

Ted Winterer for City Council 2012

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Re-elect Robert Kronovet for Rent Control Board

Pico Business Improvement District
7th Annual Pico Festival
Sunday, October 28th

By Lookout Staff

October 11, 2012 -- A federal judge on Wednesday refused to grant a temporary restraining order that would have forced Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus to run non-commercial advertising.

United States District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner agreed that the City did not violated the constitutional rights of the sponsors of AIDS Walk Los Angeles (AWLA) when it refused to run ads for its annual event October 14 on its municipal buses.

"Plaintiffs cannot demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits," the judge wrote in the order, noting that the Ninth Circuit "has held that a non-commercial ban on advertising on municipal buses is constitutional provided the restriction is reasonable and view-point neutral.

"Here," Judge Klausner wrote, "plaintiffs fail to demonstrate that the ban was unreasonable, viewpoint-based, or enforced in a manner that violated Plaintiffs' Equal Protection rights. Further, Plaintiffs cannot demonstrate irreparable harm and the balance of equities do not weigh in their favor."

City officials argued that Santa Monica's 12-year-old bus advertising policy only allows commercial advertising, as do the policies of many other municipal bus systems.

"The City is pleased," City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie aid in a statement Wednesday. "The Court reaffirmed cities' authority to place reasonable limits on bus advertising, which is exactly what Santa Monica has done."

The ads for AIDS Walk Los Angeles had been appearing on the municipal buses for five years until they were yanked when the City began enforcing the law this year.

Last month, the City Council voted 4 to 3 not to change its policy, citing concerns that allowing non-commercial advertisements on its buses would cause them to become an open forum for potentially offensive debate.

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