Update on Seattle and San Francisco Delivery-Restriction Litigation

By Larry Angove

The purpose of this update is to advise members of activity relating to industry First Amendment litigation in opposition to delivery-restriction ordinances in Seattle and San Francisco.

Unfortunately, there is very little activity to report.

The Seattle litigation is still awaiting a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. No visible action has occurred in months relating to the City’s challenged opt-out ordinance.

In San Francisco, story is much the same. Several months ago, the City of San Francisco advised Judge Armstrong of the federal district court in Oakland, where the industry’s motion for a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the City’s opt-in ordinance has been pending since last fall, that the City would be delaying implementation of the ordinance on the premise that the court should not decide anything until the Ninth Circuit rules in the Seattle case. The industry responded that the Seattle case involves issues distinctly different than those presented in San Francisco (opt-out vs. opt-in) and that the industry still needed a ruling on its motion for preliminary injunction due to the inability of publishers to plan, sell, print, and deliver directories caused by the uncertainty created by the City’s ordinance and its delayed implementation.

Judge Armstrong responded by denying the industry’s motion for preliminary injunction “without prejudice” to await a decision in the Seattle case. Believing that this action unacceptably left publishers in limbo, the industry took an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. That appeal has been fully briefed and is now awaiting the scheduling of a date for oral argument.

There is no certainty as to when oral argument on the industry’s appeal will be scheduled, but four to eight week from now would be a reasonable guess.

There is no deadline for action by the Court of Appeals in either case.