In July 1970, Henry J. Lehman, a candidate for state representative, attempted to purchase advertising space promoting his candidacy on the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit System. When his application for the space was denied on the grounds that the city did not permit political advertising, Lehman sued the city of Shaker Heights for violating his freedom of speech and equal protection rights.

ACLU of Ohio attorney Leonard Schwartz argued the case for Lehman. He asserted that once a public forum for communication has been established, both free speech and equal protection principles prohibit discrimination based solely upon the subject matter. Representatives of Shaker Heights emphasized that they had consciously limited access to transit system advertising space in order to minimize chances of abuse, the appearance of favoritism, and the risk of imposing upon a captive audience. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the city’s refusal to grant advertisement space did not violate the candidate’s First Amendment rights, stating the presence of political advertisements on public transportation would force Lehman’s political message upon an audience incapable of declining to receive it. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1974, which affirmed the Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling.


Date filed

July 3, 1970