N.Y. lawyer tossed from mall over anti-war T-shirt loses appeal

Monday, February 22, 2010

ALBANY, N.Y. — A state appeals court has ruled against a New York lawyer who sued after he was thrown out of a mall for wearing an anti-war T-shirt.

Stephen Downs had argued that the town of Guilderland violated his free-speech rights when police arrested him at the Crossgates Mall outside of Albany days before the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The lawyer's shirt read: “Peace on Earth” on the front and “Give Peace a Chance” on the back.

The Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department ruled 5-0 that Downs’ rights weren't violated because it was a private property owner who ordered him tossed out, not the government.

The court in its Feb. 18 opinion Downs v. Town of Guilderland noted that the New York Constitution’s “guarantee of free speech protects against governmental infringement and, thus, restrictions regarding expression on private property, including malls, do not typically implicate the constitutional right to free speech.”

Downs was arrested on a trespassing charge after he refused to leave. That charge was later dropped.

The court also rejected Downs’ claim of false arrest.

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