Monday, June 17, 2019

USSC rules that public access TV station is not a state actor

17-1702 Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck (06/17/2019)

This is a 5-4 decision with all the Republicans in the majority and all the Democrats dissenting. It has some relevance for the "HOAs should be limited by the Constitution" argument that many HOA activists believe in. The case is not helpful to the HOA activist position, because the USSC overruled an appellate court that said the station was a state actor. I will have to read this in detail to analyze it, but for now, here is the synopsis:

"New York state law requires cable operators to set aside channels on their cable systems for public access. Those channels are operated by the cable operator unless the local government chooses to itself operate the channels or designates a private entity to operate the channels. New York City (the City) has designated a private nonprofit corporation, petitioner Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN), to

operate the public access channels on Time Warner’s cable system in Manhattan. Respondents DeeDee Halleck and Jesus Papoleto Melendez produced a film critical of MNN to be aired on MNN’s public access channels. MNN televised the film. MNN later suspended Halleck and Melendez from all MNN services and facilities. The producers sued, claiming that MNN violated their First Amendment free-speech rights when it restricted their access to the public access channels because of the content of their film. The District Court dismissed the claim on the ground that MNN is not a state actor and therefore is not subject to First Amendment constraints on its editorial discretion. Reversing in relevant part, the Second Circuit concluded that MNN is a state actor subject to First Amendment constraints.

Held: MNN is not a state actor subject to the First Amendment. Pp. 5–16."

Here is a link to the full opinion.