Ninth Circuit Denies City of Seattle’s Latest Motion, Finalizing Free Speech Protection for all Media

Last week, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals once again ruled in favor of First Amendment protection in our case against the City of Seattle over its discriminatory phone book law. In a ruling filed on January 3, the Ninth Circuit denied the City of Seattle’s motion to revisit its earlier decision that directories, like all media, are fully protected speech under the Constitution. In doing so, the Court’s ruling is final and it effectively struck down Seattle’s discriminatory phone book law.

As you may recall, in October 2012, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled print Yellow Pages directories are fully protected speech and the City of Seattle’s discriminatory phone book ordinance was unconstitutional. However, in November 2012, the City of Seattle filed its petition requesting a full Ninth Circuit panel review of the decision.

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling is binding in all courts within the Ninth District, including San Francisco, unless Seattle files an appeal that is accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court and wins at that level. We are optimistic San Francisco’s even more restrictive Yellow Pages ordinance will be overturned.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision represents a decisive victory that protects all media from restrictions that hurt local businesses and consumers and unnecessarily cost taxpayers. The ruling is good news for residents who find value in free and easy access to community information, emergency information, and local business listings in print Yellow Pages. It is also a win for local businesses that depend on Yellow Pages advertising to attract new customers.

Our national consumer choice program, rather than government mandates, is the best approach to ensure consumers can control the delivery of Yellow Pages directories to their homes. We believe it doesn’t make sense to deliver a directory to someone who doesn’t want one. Our national opt-out website at has been available since 2011 at no cost to taxpayers and without the use of government resources.

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