A lawsuit that claimed the city of Santa Monica violated the constitutional rights of the sponsors of AIDS Walk Los Angeles by refusing to run bus ads related to the event was dismissed Oct. 10.
United States District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled in Santa Monica’s favor and refused to grant a temporary restraining order against the city and its Big Blue Bus company in Miller et al. v. City of Santa Monica.
Craig Miller, whose company MZA Events, Inc. has produced AIDS Project Los Angeles for several years, brought the lawsuit after the Santa Monica City Council rejected Mayor Richard Bloom’s recommendation at its Sept. 11 meeting for an interim ordinance that would have allowed AIDS Project Los Angeles to advertise its Oct. 14 event on municipal buses.
Under Santa Monica’s long standing bus advertising policy, the city only allows commercial advertising on its buses. The non-profit plaintiffs argued that the city previously allowed them to advertise for six years.
“Plaintiffs cannot demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits. The Ninth Circuit has held that a non-commercial ban on advertising on municipal buses is constitutional, provided the restriction is reasonable and view-point neutral,” Klausner wrote. “Here, plaintiffs fail to demonstrate that the ban was unreasonable, viewpoint-based, or enforced in a manner that violated plaintiffs’ Equal Protection rights.
“Further, plaintiffs cannot demonstrate irreparable harm and the balance of equities do not weigh in their favor.”
City Attorney Marsha Moutrie said the ruling confirms that the council was justified in its actions.
“The city is pleased,” said Moutrie. “The court reaffirmed cities’ authority to place reasonable limits on bus advertising, which is exactly what Santa Monica has done.”
The plaintiffs were seeking to overturn the Big Blue Bus policy and allow them to run ads in time for AIDS Walk Los Angeles.
“We are disappointed in the court’s ruling. We knew that we had a high bar to meet going in,” Alan Bail, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said after the ruling. “We look forward to protecting the rights of the plaintiffs in this case and the citizens of Santa Monica.”

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