The US Supreme Court granted certiorari Friday in a case that will determine whether private operators of public access channels qualify as state actors for First Amendment purposes.
In Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, the Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) suspended producer Jesus Melendez from a leadership program for allegedly harassing an employee. In response, Melendez and Deedee Halleck, another producer, produced and appeared in a video using violent language. MNN broadcast the program once in 2012, but after complaints that it violated the station’s harassment policy, ceased broadcasts and suspended Halleck.
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in favor of Melendez and Halleck. The court decided that the public access channels are “public fora,” and the private operators “have a sufficient connection to governmental authority to be deemed state actors” even though the government does not control the networks’ board. According to the court, the First Amendment applied. The network appeals, claiming that the Second Circuit used improper tests in deciding the issues.