CITY HALL — A United States District Court Judge sided with City Hall Wednesday and refused to grant a motion that would have allowed noncommercial advertisements to run on the sides of the Big Blue Bus as a lawsuit on the matter continues.
Judge R. Gary Klausner denied a temporary restraining order that would have put a long-standing — but poorly enforced — city policy on ice and allowed AIDS Walk Los Angeles to run ads prior to its Oct. 14 event, according to a news release put out by city officials.
In his denial, Klausner said that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal “has held that a non-commercial ban on advertising on municipal buses is constitutional provided the restriction is reasonable and view-point neutral.”
“The city is pleased. The court reaffirmed cities’ authority to place reasonable limits on bus advertising, which is exactly what Santa Monica has done,” said City Attorney Marsha Moutrie.
This is just the first round, said Craig Miller, a Santa Monica resident and founder of AIDS Walk Los Angeles.
“We always knew this would be an uphill battle, but we’ve said all along that we’re passionately determined that those public service messages get out there regarding HIV and AIDS on the bus,” Miller said.
Miller and two other Santa Monica residents, Paloma Bennett and Lisa Brisse, filed suit against City Hall in late September saying that officials had erred when they decided to enforce a 2001 policy that banned AIDS Walk Los Angeles from putting ads on the sides of local buses.
AIDS Walk Los Angeles had run the advertisements with the municipal bus system for six years prior to 2012. Organizers received word from City Hall in December that they would not be able to do so.
After a lengthy campaign presenting their case in local newspapers and before the City Council, Miller, who founded the walk, joined with the two other plaintiffs to file suit.
The lawsuit argued first that the AIDS Walk Los Angeles ads were a form of commercial speech because they led directly to commerce.
If the court could not find that to be the case, the parties held that the entire ban was unconstitutional.
The three plaintiffs are committed to fighting to overturn what they consider an overly-restrictive policy, Miller said.
“We will absolutely carry this litigation forward unless and until the city takes corrective action,” he said.