784 F.2d 1010 (9th Cir. 1986), 84-2076, Christian Science Reading Room Jointly Maintained v. City and County of San Francisco

Docket Nº:84-2076, 84-2415.
Citation:784 F.2d 1010
Party Name:CHRISTIAN SCIENCE READING ROOM JOINTLY MAINTAINED, a California non-profit religious corporation, and David M. Sacks, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, a municipal corporation; Airports Commission of the City and County of San Francisco; Morris Bernstein, J. Edward Fleishell, Ruth E. Kadish, Z.L. Goosby, and William K. Cobl
Case Date:March 14, 1986
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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Page 1010

784 F.2d 1010 (9th Cir. 1986)

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE READING ROOM JOINTLY MAINTAINED, a

California non-profit religious corporation, and

David M. Sacks, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, a municipal corporation;

Airports Commission of the City and County of San Francisco;

Morris Bernstein, J. Edward Fleishell, Ruth E. Kadish, Z.L.

Goosby, and William K. Coblentz as members of the Airports

Commission of the City and County of San Francisco; and

Louis A. Turpen, as Director of Airports of the City and

County of San Francisco, Defendants-Appellants.

Nos. 84-2076, 84-2415.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 14, 1986

Argued and Submitted June 11, 1985.

Richard E. Levine, Fenwick, Stone, Davis & West, Palo Alto, Cal., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Diane L. Herman, Dist. Co. Atty., San Francisco, Cal., for defendants-appellants.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Before SKOPIL, REINHARDT, and HALL, Circuit Judges.

REINHARDT, Circuit Judge:

INTRODUCTION

The issue in the case before us is whether the decision of the San Francisco Airports Commission to terminate the tenancy of the Christian Science Reading Room Jointly Maintained because it is a religious organization can stand constitutional muster. The Airport acted in the belief that the provisions of the United States and California Constitutions affecting the establishment of religion required it to evict its longtime tenant. We conclude that the Airport was wrong in that belief and that its attempt to terminate the Reading

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Room's tenancy violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. We also affirm certain post-judgment orders entered by the district court.

I. BACKGROUND

Since 1956 the Christian Science Reading Room Jointly Maintained has been a tenant in one of the terminal buildings at San Francisco International Airport which is operated by the appellants (collectively referred to as the Airport). In the space it rents, it has operated a reading room used for meditation and reading of Christian Science texts; reading materials are also offered for sale. Since 1976 the Reading Room has occupied the space under a rental permit.

On April 13, 1981, the Director of Airports sent a letter to the Reading Room stating that its "month-to-month tenancy must be terminated forthwith" because the Reading Room's "continued occupancy of Airport space [would be] contrary to provisions of the California Constitution." Attached to the letter was a supporting opinion of the Airports General Counsel that relied on article I, section 4 and article XVI, section 5 of the California Constitution, both of which prohibit state support of religion. (For purposes of convenience, we sometimes refer to both provisions collectively as the Establishment Clause of the California Constitution.) No further steps were taken at that time, however, and the Reading Room remained a tenant.

On January 10, 1984, the Director of Airports sent another letter to the Reading Room, stating that it was the Airport's current policy not to issue leases or permits for rental space to religious organizations. The Director stated further that "[t]his position is based in part on legal issues which were brought to our attention in 1981" by the Airports General Counsel. The Reading Room was directed to vacate its space permanently when renovation of the terminal building began.

On March 21, 1984, the Director of Airports sent a third letter to the Reading Room, in which he said that the renovation of the terminal building was underway and the time had come for the Reading Room to leave the premises. The requisite thirty-day notice to vacate was given, and the Reading Room was informed that the Airport would not rent it any other space.

On April 3, 1984, an attorney for the Reading Room appeared at a meeting of the Airports Commission and sought to have the Commission revoke the eviction letter. The Commission's concerns regarding the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution were discussed. Subsequently, the Reading Room's attorney supplied the Commission with a lengthy brief on the constitutional question. On April 17, the Airports Commission met again, and after further discussion of the requirements of the First Amendment, finally refused to revoke the eviction letter. The Commission also adopted a formal policy statement that the Airport would not rent space to religious organizations. The policy had apparently existed informally since 1981, or possibly even since 1977.

On April 19, the Reading Room filed in federal district court an application for a temporary restraining order and a complaint for a permanent injunction seeking to prohibit the Airport from evicting it. The temporary restraining order was granted on April 20. On May 8, after a trial, the district court granted a permanent injunction and entered judgment for the Reading Room. The permanent injunction declared that the eviction notice of March 21, 1984 was void, and ordered the Airport to allow the Reading Room to rent "comparable rental space and on comparable terms, conditions and covenants as existed at the time [the] action was commenced." Under the court's order, the Airport was permitted to terminate the Reading Room's tenancy at a later date as long as it was done for a "valid, nondiscriminatory reason."

As of May 16, 1984, the parties were unable to agree on what substitute space would be rented to the Reading Room, and the Airport sent it another thirty-day eviction

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notice. On June 6, the Airport filed an appeal from the permanent injunction and judgment. On June 18, the Reading Room had not vacated the premises and the Airport began an unlawful detainer action in the Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo. On June 19, the Reading Room requested that the district court stay the state court proceedings and hold the Airport in civil contempt. On June 21, a temporary restraining order was issued, barring the Airport from proceeding any further with the state court litigation.

On July 3, the district court stayed the state court litigation until otherwise ordered, and orally ordered the parties to cooperate and to negotiate the issue of what space could be rented. The Airport was further orally ordered to disclose all potential rental locations to the Reading Room.

On July 23, the district court again orally ordered the parties to negotiate and ordered the Reading Room to vacate the premises it was occupying. On July 30, the parties informed the court that a settlement had been reached. The Reading Room withdrew its contempt motion and the Airport stated that it would dismiss the state court action. The Airport agreed to rent space to the Reading Room, but both parties stipulated that the rental was made only "in accordance with [the district] court's orders." The district court orally approved this settlement.

On August 28, the Airport appealed from these post-judgment orders. On September 11, the district court entered a written order detailing and approving the settlement, and vacating the stay of the state court litigation. On September 17, the Airport amended its notice of appeal to make it clear that the Airport was appealing from the oral orders of July 3, 23, and 30, 1984, as embodied in the written order of September 11, 1984.

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