Prior to 1983, the City of Lakewood prohibited the placement of any private structure on public property and under this law, prohibited the Plain Dealer from placing coin-operated newspaper dispensing machines on city sidewalks. In response, the Plain Dealer sued the city in district court in January 1983. The court found this prohibition unconstitutional in August 1983. Lakewood then adopted an ordinance that gave the mayor power to grant permits and set terms for the placement of newspaper racks on public property. Unhappy with the new provisions, the Plain Dealer sued in April 1984. The district court ruled the provisions were constitutional on all counts. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, reversed the decision in 1986.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals’ ruling in June 1988 and deemed Lakewood’s process of granting permits unconstitutional under the First Amendment. Lakewood’s ordinance gave unbridled discretion to city officials to permit or deny access to a public forum. The ACLU Cleveland Chapter, in cooperation with the Ohio and national ACLU, filed an amicus brief in the case arguing the free speech and free press aspects of the case. Attorneys on the amicus were Gordon J. Beggs, John A. Powell, Steven R. Shapiro, Bruce A. Campbell, Paul L. Hoffman, Stephen Gard, and David Goldstein.