By Victoria Bekiempis December 27 2013
Artists hope to reverse a decision that prevents virtually precludes
them selling work in public.
The New York City artists who have long litigated to sell their work
in public parks have officially asked the U.S. Supreme Court to
consider their case, according to legal documents filed earlier this
Robert Lederman, who heads activist group Artists’ Response To Illegal
State Tactics (A.R.T.I.S.T.), wants the Supremes to reverse a lower
court’s recent decision allowing the city to regulate where creatives
can publicly set up shop.
As previously reported by Newsweek, Lederman and his allies claim that
the City’s 2010 code effectively bars them from selling their art,
since the rule limits the number of artist-vendors in the city’s most
popular public spaces – Central Park, Union Square Park, Battery Park,
and the High Line.
Lederman and his legal team, Julie Milner and Svetlana Minevich, have
argued that these regulations violate their Constitutional rights to
free expression and equal protection under the law, since the city
allows buskers to perform virtually wherever they chose on public
They also contend that the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which
ruled against them in September, was wrong in refusing their requests
to depose city officials — and in deciding, more broadly, that
governmental officials should be protected from depositions save for
What Milner and Minevich argue in their petition, submitted on Dec.
23, one day before their filing deadline, is that the Second Circuit’s
ruling means far more than cut-and-dry violations of Constitutional
protections or bad court procedures.
They claim that the case merits the U.S. Supreme Court’s attention
because the Second Circuit’s decision clashes with other circuits’
decisions on similar matters – which means there’s no consistent
precedent across the country on artist-vendors or depositions.
Their petition sums it up thusly: “This Court should grant the
Petition to settle the law and resolve these aforementioned
Lederman further worries that “if the Supreme Court allows the lower
court ruling to stand, government officials will be immune from ever
being called to account for their misdeeds.”
The artist advocates have many obstacles ahead of them. First, the
stats are stacked heavily against them: The U.S. Supreme Court only
agrees to hear between 100 and 150 “of the more than 7,000 cases that
it is asked to review each year.” And even if the court gives the case
a green light, Lederman will have to raise funds from artists around
the country to cover the extensive legal fees. (Just printing the
petition according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s standards cost
The city, which maintains that the September decision reflects a
“careful balance between the rights of First Amendment vendors and the
city’s valid interest in ensuring that parks can be enjoyed by the
public,” is poised to keep fighting Lederman. Sources close to the
matter tell Newsweek that the city will likely file an opposition
brief to thwart the artists’ petition.
Contact Robert Lederman