New Jersey Law Blog

A Note to New Jersey Shopping Mall Owners and Managers about Protesters and Solicitors

Protesters and solicitors have been granted wide latitude to gather, speak, and pass out leaflets about non-commercial issues at shopping malls in New Jersey.  As a shopping mall owner or manager, your right to curtail those activities at your shopping malls is far more limited in New Jersey than it would be in practically any other state.

 

Here is what you can restrict:

  • You may impose restrictions against commercial solicitations, (such as prohibiting outside advertisers from placing advertising materials on cars parked in the lots).
  • You may also impose some restrictions on the time, place and manner of non-commercial speech activities at your shopping malls.

However, even if you believe that the “time, place and manner” restrictions meet the general standard of balancing the commercial interest of minimizing the disruption at the shopping malls with the constitutionally protected interest of public expression, you would still open yourself to liability by enforcing those restrictions by yourself or through the use of a private security force.  Further, the local police departments would probably not help you to enforce those restrictions because they are agents of the government, and are therefore only permitted to curtail free-speech activities under extremely limited circumstances.

 

Therefore, there is little that you can do as a shopping mall owner or manager in New Jersey to prohibit non-commercial speech at your shopping malls.  You could only curtail non-commercial speech activities and/or expect the police to take significant action if a public gathering at your shopping mall becomes unruly, blocks pedestrian or automobile traffic, involves harassing behavior, involves the use of megaphones or disrupts the ability to reasonably conduct business.  If any of that happens, you can call the police and file a complaint.  However, most police departments would only disperse such protests if they become unruly, and they would most likely not take any action simply because the protesters failed to obtain a permit.

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