New York City Tries to Block Street Artists' Petition to Supreme Court

The long legal battle between the city and street artists, which has Constitutional implications, continues Mario Tama/Getty Images

New York City is trying to stop the U.S. Supreme Court from hearing a case that could determine how tightly municipalities can regulate street artists.

In December, the artist-activists who have fought for decades to sell their work in New York's public parks officially asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider their case, in hopes of reversing a lower court's decision upholding limits on the number of artist-vendors in Central Park, Union Square Park, Battery Park and the High Line. Robert Lederman, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who leads Artists' Response to Illegal State Tactics (A.R.T.I.S.T.), has long claimed that the regulation relegates them to un-trafficked park areas and as such, bans creatives from selling their art.

Last week, the city's lawyers filed a brief opposing the artists' petition, according to court documents furnished to Newsweek.

Lederman and his legal team, Julie Milner and Svetlana Minevich, also allege that the regulations impinge upon their Constitutional rights to free expression and equal protection under the law, as the city allows street performers to practice their craft almost anywhere they want on public property. They also claim that the Second Circuit wrongly refused Lederman and his lawyers' requests to depose public officials—the opinion stated that government officials should be protected from depositions except in "exceptional circumstances."

Though the U.S. Supreme Court only agrees to take on between 100 and 150 of the 7,000 cases it's asked to hear every year, Milner and Minevich's pitch to the Supremes hinges on the argument that the Second Circuit's decision doesn't jibe with other circuits across the U.S., in addition to being Constitutionally questionable.

In its brief of opposition, the City counters that the Second Circuit's decision is legally correct and aligns with other circuits' opinions.

In addition, the city maintains that artists have ample opportunities to sell their wares elsewhere—and that the Constitution does not require that all those opportunities be good, arguing: "It is beyond dispute that neither the United States nor the State Constitutions guarantee a person the right 'to communicate one's views at all times and places and in any manner that may be desired.'...while ample alternatives must be available, speakers are not guaranteed 'access to every or even the best channels or locations for their expression.'"

Milner and Minevich have until the end of the week to respond to the city's filing.

New York City's law office declined further comment on the case.