March 9, 2018

PLF appeals Oakland art decision to Ninth Circuit

By Anthony L. Francois Senior Attorney

This week PLF appealed the district court’s decision in BIA Bay Area v. City of Oakland to the Ninth Circuit. This case challenges Oakland’s law compelling home builders to buy art commissions from (preferably local) artists if they want a building permit.

This law violates the First Amendment, by compelling artistic speech, and the Fifth Amendment by coercing property owners to surrender property without compensation.

The district court dismissed our lawsuit, on the grounds that the city can compel people to engage in First Amendment protected artistic speech, as long as it has a good reason, and that a city council can legally extort property from building permit seekers, so long as it passes a city wide law to do it. These rulings trivialize constitutional rights, whose primary purpose is to constrain government interference with liberty, into aspirations that cities can opt out of if their citizens’ liberties are inconvenient.

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