Westfield Settles Speech Lawsuit With Pastor Arrested At Mall

Sacramento, CA – A free speech case that created significant precedent in California and focused national attention on a shopping mall’s speech restrictions has been amicably resolved out of court, pursuant to a confidential agreement.

Attorneys for Pacific Justice Institute, who represented plaintiff and youth pastor Matthew Snatchko, noted, however, that the settlement is consistent with a California Court of Appeal decision last August that criticized the mall’s rules that attempted to limit consensual conversations between mall patrons. The court held in favor of Snatchko.

The details of the case can be reviewed in the published decision of the California Court of Appeal, at Snatchko v. Westfield (2010) 187 Cal.App.4th 469. The opening paragraph of the court’s opinion includes the following summary:

In this case we conclude the rules of a large regional shopping mall that prohibit peaceful, consensual, spontaneous conversations between strangers in common areas of the mall about topics that are not related to the activities of the mall, its tenants or the noncommercial sponsored activities of the mall or its tenants are content-based rules that do not withstand a strict scrutiny analysis. The rules are unconstitutional on their face under article I, section 2 of the California Constitution, the California constitutional provision which guarantees the right to free speech.

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, commented, “We are very pleased by this settlement, which brings to a culmination our efforts of the last several years on behalf of pastor Snathcko and free speech. We would like to highlight the enormous contributions of PJI affiliate attorney Timothy Smith, who worked on this case for years without any compensation other than the knowledge that it was a just cause.”