Kentucky City Allowed to Prohibit Unsolicited Newspaper Distributions

In 2017, Lexington, Kentucky passed an ordinance that penalizes the distribution of unsolicited literature (pamphlets, ads, etc.) to households outside of six specific delivery methods of delivery.  The Herald-Leader, a news-media company in Lexington, publishes and distributes its Community News by leaving it on people’s driveway—not one of the six permitted methods—but allows residents to opt-out of delivery if they want.

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The Herald-Leader sued the city, arguing that the ordinance violates their First Amendment rights to free speech and free press.

The Herald-Leader did not prevail.  The Sixth Circuit upheld Lexington’s ordinance because it was content-neutral, i.e., it did not restrict what could be “said,” and left open ample other channels for communication.  The city successfully argued that its ordinance was justified because it helps reduce litter and prevents damage to private property, notwithstanding the Herald-Leader’s opt-out policy.

Case: Lexington H-L Servs., Inc. v. Lexington-Fayette Urban Cty. Gov’t, No. 17-5562 (6th Cir. Jan. 9, 2018) (opinion here)

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