Back to All Court Cases

Downs v. Town of Guilderland et al. (Defending free speech rights in public areas of a shopping mall)

This case concerns the right to wear a T-shirt expressing a political point of view in the public areas of a shopping mall. On March 3, 2003, Stephen Downs was shopping at Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, New York when he was stopped by a security guard for wearing a T-shirt that stated “Give Peace a Chance/Peace on Earth.” Downs refused a request by both the guard and a Guilderland Police Officer to remove his T-shirt or leave the mall. He was subsequently arrested, handcuffed and detained by the police for roughly an hour. Mr. Downs was charged with trespassing. He was then arraigned before the Guilderland Town Court and released on his own recognizance. The trespass charge was dismissed.

On May 27, 2004, the NYCLU filed a lawsuit on Downs’s behalf against the Town of Guilderland and the mall’s owners in state court claiming that the defendants violated plaintiff’s constitutionally protected rights to freedom of speech, freedom to travel, equal protection of the law and freedom from infringements on his liberty without due process of law. The NYCLU maintained that Crossgates Mall, as a large retail establishment whose existence is subsidized by tax incentives from the Town of Guilderland, is a public area in which the right of free speech is guaranteed. Supreme Court Judge Gerald W. Connolly dismissed the suit in a decision issued on April 2, 2009. The Appellate Division, Third Department upheld the lower court’s ruling.

State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department Index No. 507428 (direct) 

As bold as the spirit of New York, we are the NYCLU.
© 2024 New York
Civil Liberties Union