In Early Ruling, Court Sides With PETA In Ad Case

In Early Ruling, Court Sides With PETA In Ad Case
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BERLIN — The first round in a federal suit challenging the Lower Shore’s public transportation system’s denial of accepting advertising from an animal right advocacy group went to the plaintiffs this week as a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction.

In August, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed suit in U.S. District Court against Shore Transit and the Tri-County Council of the Lower Eastern Shore seeking injunctions after the quasi-government entities denied their application to place advertising on Shore Transit buses. PETA then renewed its application this summer, asserting Shore Transit’s denial violated First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to free speech and expression.

When Shore Transit and its parent Tri-County Council did not respond the PETA’s second application, the animal rights advocacy group filed suit in U.S. District Court seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions against the transit system’s advertising policies. PETA desired to place ads on the buses which featured the slogan “No one Needs to Kill to Eat,” advocating the closure of animal slaughterhouses. Shore Transit denied the application, citing its policy prohibiting ads that are political, controversial, offensive, objectionable or in poor taste.

While the federal suit moves on, this month a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against Shore Transit and the Tri-County Council of the Lower Eastern Shore, prohibiting the agencies from denying PETA’s advertising on the buses.

“Upon consideration of the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction and the papers filed in support of and opposition to the motion, the court finds that the plaintiff has established a likelihood of success on the merits, a likelihood of irreparable harm, that the balance of equities tips in its favor and the public interest supports the issuance of preliminary injunctive relief,” the order reads.

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As a result, PETA’s advertising messages cannot be rejected while the court considers the overall case.

“The defendants Shore Transit and the Tri-County Council for the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland, as well as their agents, servants, employees, attorneys and all others in active concert or participation with them are hereby enjoined from enforcing Shore Transit’s restrictions on advertisements that Shore Transit deems political, controversial, offensive, objectionable or in poor taste,” the order reads. “The defendants Shore Transit and the Tri-County Council of the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland are hereby enjoined from refusing to accept the proposed advertisements submitted by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on May 12, 2020.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.