Free Speech Posted on May 11, 2011

Korwin v. Cotton (Bus Shelter Ads case)

On May 11, 2011, the Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit on behalf of Alan Korwin and TrainMeAz LLC to challenge the decision by Debbie Cotton, director of the Phoenix Public Transit Department, to remove posters at 50 bus shelters advertising the company’s website. Ms. Cotton has claimed the ads didn’t promote a commercial transaction as required by city policy. Ms. Cotton’s explanation ignores the express purpose of TrainMeAz to make a profit while providing resources to people who want training on self-defense and marksmanship. In addition, the city of Phoenix has no written standards to explain to potential advertisers what specific messages and logos are acceptable at city bus shelters. Ms. Cotton and the city of Phoenix have arbitrarily denied Mr. Korwin’s right to free speech.

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Victory! Arizona Court of Appeals found the City violated free speech rights

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When the Arizona Legislature changed the law to allow individuals to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, weapons expert Alan Korwin saw a business opportunity helping people who wanted to safely exercise that right. He worked with training instructors and other organizations to create TrainMeAz.com, a website connecting weapons owners to training services. The website is funded through sponsorships and advertising.

TrainMeAz launched an advertising campaign, including roadside billboards, in mid-2010 to attract customers to the website. Mr. Korwin also signed a contract with CBS Outdoors to place advertisements on 50 city-owned bus shelters, which CBS Outdoors manages.

CBS Outdoors then informed Mr. Korwin that the City of Phoenix objected to his ad. In a telephone conference call, city officials told Mr. Korwin the posters didn’t comply with a written requirement that bus shelter advertising only be used for speech that “proposes a commercial transaction.” However, city officials were unable to provide Mr. Korwin with any standards that would explain what kind of messages would meet that requirement.

Meanwhile, CBS Outdoors removed the posters at the city’s direction before the expiration of TrainMeAz’s contract.

Case Documents

Complaint (5/11/2011) (78.8 KB)

Plaintiffs' Separate Statement of Facts in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (5/1/2012) (141.6 KB)

Plaintiffs' Separate Statement of Facts, Exhibits (5/1/2012) (6.3 MB)

Plaintiffs' Response to Defendants' Separate Statement of Facts (5/1/2012) (181.8 KB)

Plaintiffs' Combined Motion for Summary Judgment (5/1/2012) (181.9 KB)

Plaintiffs' Reply in Further Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (6/19/2012) (155.5 KB)

Plaintiffs' Reply to Defendants' Response to Separate Statement of Facts (6/19/2012) (264.1 KB)

Plaintiffs' Response to Defendants' Additional Facts (6/19/2012) (177.1 KB)

Trial Court Decision on Motion for Summary Judgment (10/15/2012) (11.7 KB)

Opening Brief (2/26/2013) (292.4 KB)

Opening Brief, Appendix (2/26/2013) (2.7 MB)

American Civil Liberties Union Amicus Brief (4/15/2013) (109.9 KB)

Appellants' Reply Brief (5/21/2013) (69.0 KB)

Court Opinion (5/8/2014) (633.5 KB)

Author

Clint Bolick served as the Goldwater Institute’s Vice President for Litigation. He is now an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Arizona. Read

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