Appellate Court Reverses Judge's Order Concerning Grove Protests

LA Grove

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A state appellate court panel has reversed a Superior Court judge's decision that ordered companies owned by Rick Caruso to allow those who oppose his mayoral candidacy to express their views under certain guidelines at the Grove prior to the Nov. 8 general election.

The unanimous decision by the three-justice panel of the Second District Court of Appeal, authored by Justice Brian S. Currey, overturns a Sept. 28 ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Teresa A. Beaudet granting a preliminary injunction on behalf of local activists.

The plaintiffs maintained in a lawsuit filed Aug. 16 that they had unsuccessfully sought permission from management at the Caruso-owned mall to express criticism of the Caruso campaign on what they said were terms equal to previous expression at the mall by those promoting the billionaire's mayoral run against Rep. Karen Bass.

The real estate developer's campaign headquarters are at the Fairfax district shopping center, which has also been the site of numerous public events promoting his candidacy, according to the suit brought against Caruso Management Co. Ltd. and GFM LLC, alleging violations of the state Constitution.

"We are pleased with today's decision, which reaffirms the court's understanding of the importance of upholding standard industry policies for the safety and well-being of our customers, tenants and other visitors," a Caruso company representative said.

The lawsuit's plaintiffs -- former mayoral candidate Gina Viola as well as Sim Bilal of the organization Youth Climate Strike Los Angeles -- were denied permission by Grove management to hold small-scale marches through the Fairfax district center's public access ways in August, according to the suit.

Beaudet's order prohibited the Caruso companies from suppressing political expression by Caruso's critics with what they say will be quiet displays of signs no larger than those distributed previously by Caruso supporters. One demonstration by up to 30 people between now and the election also was to be allowed under Beaudet's order.

But according to the Caruso representative, the Grove is committed to creating a welcoming, respectful and safe environment for community members regardless of their viewpoints.

"As part of this commitment, we ask those who want to exercise their First Amendment rights to do so in accordance with standard industry policies," the representative said. "These rules were established decades ago so there would be a fair and equitable process to address the type of requests made by the plaintiffs, Ms. Viola and Youth Climate Strike.

"We will never waiver from our commitment to serve as a place where all Angelenos and visitors from around the world feel comfortable and safe expressing themselves and sharing their views."

Matthew Strugar, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said previously that Caruso has maintained the Grove gave Los Angeles the Main Street it never had.

"Well, Main Streets have protests and they have to allow all viewpoints," Strugar said.

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