Gordon Price v. Merrick Garland, No. 21-5073 (D.C. Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Appellee, an independent filmmaker, filmed parts of a feature film on land administered by the National Park Service (NPS) without having obtained the requisite permit and having paid the requisite fee. The Government charged him with a misdemeanor but later dismissed the charge. Appellee then sued for declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing the permit-and-fee requirements are facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The district court agreed with Appellee, holding the permit-and-fee requirements do not satisfy the heightened scrutiny applicable to restrictions on speech in a public forum.
The DC Circuit reversed the district court’s order. The court held that regulation of filmmaking on government-controlled property is subject only to a “reasonableness” standard, even when the filmmaking is conducted in a public forum. Here, the court found, that the permit-and-fee requirements are reasonable. The court explained that although filmmaking is protected by the First Amendment, the specific speech-protective rules of a public forum apply only to communicative activity. Consequently, regulations governing filmmaking on government-controlled property need only be “reasonable,” which the permit-and-fee requirements for commercial filmmaking on NPS land surely are.