In this case, the plaintiff, Steven M. Glovsky, an attorney, while seeking to run for election to the Massachusetts Governor’s Council in 2012, sought permission to solicit nominating signatures at a Roche Brother’s supermarket situated on a private 5-acre lot in Westwood, Massachusetts. The store, which has a policy against such solicitations, denied him permission. Glovsky later brought this pro se suit, alleging that Roche Brothers had violated his constitutional rights. He cites the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision Batchelder v. Allied Stores Int’l, Inc., 388 Mass. 83 (1983). In Batchelder the SJC held that the owners of the huge, 84-acre Northshore Mall had violated Batchelder’s rights under Article 9 (freedom and equality of elections) of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, when they prevented him from using certain common areas of the mall as a place to collect signatures to get himself put on the ballot for legislative office.
NELF, together with six co-amici, filed an amicus brief in support of Roche Brothers, arguing that the narrow holding in Batchelder does not apply to the modest property at issue in this case and its small, purely utilitarian common area (the parking lot and front entry way of the supermarket). NELF pointed out that crucial to the Court’s decision in Batchelder was its factual finding that large shopping malls, with their spacious common areas and numerous amenities intended to induce people to linger and congregate, sometimes may assume some of the functions of a traditional public downtown and therefore be deemed dedicated to the public as a practical matter. Nothing could be further from the facts of this case, where the property bears no resemblance to a “downtown,” lacks the scale of a place intended to draw the public to congregate and socialize, and possesses a common area that is a small utilitarian space completely devoted to facilitating shopping.
Especially concerning to NELF is Glovsky’s request that the Court extent Batchelder to any commercial property that is, allegedly, the “best” place to gather signatures. NELF argues that such a view is inconsistent with the text and reasoning of Batchelder and would lead to absurd or unworkable results. NELF also rebutted two false distinctions made by Glovsky in his attempt to deflect the fatal reasoning of Batchelder from his own case. NELF argued that his distinction between inviting the public into a commercial establishment and allowing the public there is completely spurious under Massachusetts tort law. NELF also argued that the Batchelder court did not apply a more accommodating standard than that applied in the seminal precedent Robins v. Pruneyard Shopping Center, 592 P.2d 341 (Cal. 1979); Glovsky’s distinction between a free speech issue in that case and a free elections issue in Batchelder is belied by the undisputed facts of both cases.