San Diego Law Review

Library of Congress Authority File


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The public forum doctrine is meant to protect certain indispensable areas for public and political discussion. Using First Unitarian Church v. Salt Lake City Corporation, this Casenote highlights the inadequacy of the current public forum doctrine. The controversy arose out of the sale of land that included easements restricting the creation of a public forum in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Courts have recognized three types of public for a: the traditional public forum, the designated public forum, and the nonpublic forum. The district court in this case found that the easement constituted a nonpublic forum, whereas the Tenth Circuit correctly held that the easement constituted a traditional public forum after analyzing the objective characteristics of the easement, the compatibility of speech activities to the easement, and the history of the property. The line of cases the Tenth Circuit analyzed to come to its result provide little clarity to the public forum doctrine because their factual distinctions do not support their holdings. In conclusion, the author advocates a modified public forum doctrine that focuses on the property's characteristics, nature, and use, and notice to the public, using only the objective characteristics and compatibility of speech factors. Although the solution is not perfect, the author believe that the modified doctrine will better balance free speech and private property rights.

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