U.S. Supreme Court Shoots Down Street Artists’ Rights Case

The justices decided not to hear a case on whether artists can sell their work in public Mario Tama/Getty Images

The New York City artists who have fought for years to sell their works in public parks will not get their day in the nation’s top court.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to hear a lawsuit between these artists and New York City, in which the creatives allege that vending regulations governing where they can sell their wares violate their Constitutional rights, those affiliated with the case tell Newsweek.

Artists across the country, many of whom have faced crackdowns on where they can sell their work, have followed this controversy for many years, as court decisions on New York City have impacted how municipalities countrywide govern them.

New York City’s artists have long contended that the rules — which limit the number of artist vendors in the most heavily trafficked areas in the city, such as Central Park, Union Square Park, Battery Park and the High Line — impinge upon their right to free expression and equal protection under the law. They argue that vending regulations relegate creatives to un-trafficked areas, effectively banning them from selling their art.

Robert Lederman, the artist-activist who has led the legal charge against the city, along with his lawyers Julie Milner and Svetlana Minevich, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case in December after a lower court ruled against them and upheld the regulations.

City administrators then fought this petition in February. The Supremes ultimately sided with them.

Milner and Lederman tell Newsweek that they are considering their next steps. Lederman has petitioned New York City’s recently elected mayor, Bill De Blasio, to reconsider the policy.

“At some level we are going to get justice,” Lederman says in an e-mail to Newsweek.

The City’s legal department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear between 100 and 150 of the 7,000 cases it’s asked to consider every year. 

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