(AP) A federal appeals court Friday upheld a judge’s order blocking Atlanta’s airport from requiring newspapers to sell only from city-owned newsracks bearing advertisements for Coca-Cola.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the city’s plan violated the First Amendment because it required the Coca-Cola advertising and illegally imposed a monthly fee of $20, more than the administrative cost of maintaining the news boxes.
The judges also said that by choosing which newspapers could lease the newsracks, the city could infringe on speech and press freedoms.
City attorney Susan Pease-Langford said the city may ask the full 12-member court to reconsider the ruling.
In 1996, as the city was renovating Hartsfield International Airport in preparation for the Olympics, officials adopted a policy to remove all boxes that newspapers had placed there, and then lease publishers city-owned boxes carrying advertisements for Coca-Cola.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, USA Today, and The New York Times sued, claiming the plan violated First Amendment freedoms of the press.
U.S. District Judge Richard Story issued a temporary injunction in 1996 and made it permanent in 2000. Friday’s ruling followed an appeal by the city.