Associated Industries of Massachusetts and other business groups have filed a legal brief supporting the right of supermarkets to prohibit political candidates from collecting signatures on store properties.
The filing comes in a case before the state Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) in which a candidate for governor’s council sued Roche Brothers supermarkets after he says he was prohibited from gathering signatures near a Roche market in Westwood. The case could have significant implications for the many commercial property owners who belong to AIM.
Steven M. Glovsky, who brought the suit, alleges violation of his constitutional rights. The case was dismissed at the lower court but Glovsky appealed. The case will be argued in front of the court on February 3.
The SJC ruled in 1983 that candidates may not be barred from gathering signatures at shopping malls even if the owner does not want them there. Glovsky is asking the court to extend the protection to include places such as supermarkets and some commercial buildings. These properties, in Glovsky’s view, have taken the place of traditional downtowns and have become public spaces similar to malls.
AIM and the New England Legal Foundation argue in their brief that expanding the right to collect signatures is not warranted and would take away the rights of property owners to decide who should solicit signatures on their property.
“Glovsky even goes so far as to advocate that, for any piece of commercial property that is, allegedly, the best place for a candidate to gather signatures, the Court should apply a standard under which the property owner’s rights would necessarily be subordinated to the rights of the aspiring candidate, unless the owner can prove, in court, that he would suffer unavoidable economic harm,” says the brief, which is also supported by the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, the Massachusetts Food Association, NAIOP Massachusetts and other organizations.
“The Roche Brothers supermarket’s standing invitation to the public is to shop there, and the entrance area is to be used for the utilitarian purposes of entering and exiting the store when shopping, and not for non-commercial purposes. This area, in extent and configuration, is not comparable to the common areas found in many large shopping malls, notably those where the public is regularly encouraged to gather in large numbers, socialize, linger, etc…”
AIM frequently intervenes in court cases with broad implications for Massachusetts employers. Those cases most commonly revolve around contractual interpretations, jurisdictional issues, energy, tax and healthcare disputes.