Newspaper rack ruling stands

Staff writerJuly 14, 2010 

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday denied a request from the RDU Airport Authority that the full court review lower court decisions that would force the airport to lift its ban on coin-operated newspaper racks.

Four newspaper companies, including The News & Observer, are suing the airport, contending that the ban violates the First Amendment. They argue that the ban prevents their right to disseminate the news.

The airport authority hasn't decided whether it will continue defending the case, which would mean an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The Airport Authority's attorney is reviewing the decision and will be conferring with the Airport Authority," airport spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said in a news release.

The airport has said the ban should be allowed because it should be able to maximize revenue from the shops that also sell newspapers in the terminals. RDU officials also cited security, congestion and aesthetic concerns. They contend that travelers have enough opportunity to buy newspapers from the shops.

But the publishers argue that shops inside RDU aren't open at all hours when travelers are moving through the airport.

In 2008, U.S. District Court Judge Terrence W. Boyle issued a summary judgment ruling that the airport had to allow the newspapers to install racks. Later, he ordered RDU to pay the newspapers' legal bills. The appellate court upheld that decision.

The courtroom battle has been going on for six years. Before this appeal, defending the lawsuit had cost the airport, owned by local governments in Durham and Wake counties, more than half a million dollars. The legal bills for the publishing companies, meanwhile, are nearing $400,000 said John A. Bussian, a lawyer for the publishers.

In March, a panel of Fourth Circuit judges upheld Boyles' rulings 2-1, prompting the airport to ask that the full court hear the case. The vote against the request was 7-4.

jay.price@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4526

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