539 U.S. 113 (2003), 02-371, Virginia v. Hicks

Docket Nº:No. 02-371
Citation:539 U.S. 113, 123 S.Ct. 2191, 156 L.Ed.2d 148, 71 U.S.L.W. 4441
Party Name:Virginia v. Hicks
Case Date:June 16, 2003
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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539 U.S. 113 (2003)

123 S.Ct. 2191, 156 L.Ed.2d 148, 71 U.S.L.W. 4441

Virginia

v.

Hicks

No. 02-371

United States Supreme Court

June 16, 2003

Argued April 30, 2003

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF VIRGINIA

Syllabus

The Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA), a political subdivision of Virginia, owns and operates Whitcomb Court, a low-income housing development. In 1997, the Richmond City Council conveyed Whitcomb Court's streets to the RRHA in an effort to combat crime and drug dealing by nonresidents. In accordance with the terms of conveyance, the RRHA enacted a policy authorizing the Richmond police to serve notice on any person lacking "a legitimate business or social purpose" for being on the premises and to arrest for trespassing any person who remains or returns after having been so notified. The RRHA gave respondent Hicks, a nonresident, written notice barring him from Whitcomb Court. Subsequently, he trespassed there and was arrested and convicted. At trial, he claimed that RRHA's policy was, among other things, unconstitutionally overbroad. The Virginia Court of Appeals vacated his conviction. In affirming, the Virginia Supreme Court found the policy unconstitutionally overbroad in violation of the First Amendment because an unwritten rule that leafleting and demonstrating require advance permission vested too much discretion in Whitcomb Court's manager.

Held:

the RRHA's trespass policy is not facially invalid under the First Amendment's overbreadth doctrine. Pp. 539 U.S. 118,118-124.

(a) Under that doctrine, a showing that a law punishes a "substantial" amount of protected free speech "in relation to the statute's plainly legitimate sweep," Broadrick v. Oklahoma, 413 U.S. 601, 615, suffices to invalidate all enforcement of that law

until and unless a limiting construction or partial invalidation so narrows it as to remove the seeming threat or deterrence to constitutionally protected expression,

id. at 613. Only substantial overbreadth supports such facial invalidation, since there are significant social costs in blocking a law's application to constitutionally unprotected conduct. Pp. 539 U.S. 118,118-120.

(b) This Court has jurisdiction to review the First Amendment merits question here. Virginia's actual injury in fact -- the inability to prosecute Hicks for trespass -- is sufficiently distinct and palpable to confer Article III standing. Pp. 539 U.S. 120,120-121.

(c) Even assuming the invalidity of the "unwritten" rule for leafleters and demonstrators, Hicks has not shown that the RRHA policy prohibits a substantial amount of protected speech in relation to its many legitimate

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applications. Both the notice-barment rule and the "legitimate business or social purpose" rule apply to all persons entering Whitcomb Court's streets, not just to those seeking to engage in expression. Neither the basis for the barment sanction (a prior trespass) nor its purpose (preventing future trespasses) implicates the First Amendment. An overbreadth challenge rarely succeeds against a law or regulation that is not specifically addressed to speech or conduct necessarily associated with speech. Any applications of the RRHA's policy that violate the First Amendment can be remedied through as-applied litigation. Pp. 539 U.S. 121,121-124.

264 Va. 48, 563 S.E.2d 674, reversed and remanded.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. SOUTER, J., filed a concurring opinion in which BREYER, J., joined, post, p. 539 U.S. 124,124.

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SCALIA, J.

The issue presented in this case is whether the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority's trespass policy is facially invalid under the First Amendment's overbreadth doctrine.

I

A

The Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA) owns and operates a housing development for low-income residents called Whitcomb Court. Until June 23, 1997, the City of Richmond owned the streets within Whitcomb Court. The city council decided, however, to "privatize" these streets in an effort to combat rampant crime and drug dealing in Whitcomb Court -- much of it committed and conducted by nonresidents. The council enacted Ordinance No. 97-181-197, which provided in part:

"§ 1. That Carmine Street, Bethel Street, Ambrose Street, Deforrest Street, the 2100-2300 Block of Sussex Street and the 2700-2800 Block of Magnolia Street, in Whitcomb Court . . . be and are hereby closed to public

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use and travel and abandoned as streets of the City of Richmond."

App. to Pet. for Cert. 93-94. The city then conveyed these streets by a recorded deed to the RRHA (which is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia). This deed required the RRHA to "'give the appearance that the closed street, particularly at the entrances, are no longer public streets and that they are in fact private streets.'" Id. at 95. To this end, the RRHA posted red-and-white signs on each apartment building -- and every 100 feet along the streets -- of Whitcomb Court, which state:

"NO TRESPASSING[.] PRIVATE PROPERTY[.] YOU ARE NOW ENTERING PRIVATE PROPERTY AND STREETS OWNED BY RRHA. UNAUTHORIZED PERSONS WILL BE SUBJECT TO ARREST AND PROSECUTION. UNAUTHORIZED VEHICLES WILL BE TOWED AT OWNERS EXPENSE."

Pet. for Cert. 5. The RRHA also enacted a policy authorizing the Richmond police

"to serve notice, either orally or in writing, to any person who is found on Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority property when such person is not a resident, employee, or such person cannot demonstrate a legitimate business or social purpose for being on the premises. Such notice shall forbid the person from returning to the property. Finally, Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority authorizes Richmond Police Department officers to arrest any person for trespassing after such person, having been duly notified, either stays upon or returns to Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority property."

App. to Pet. for Cert. 98-99 (emphasis added).

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