Lawsuit over transit ad space denial heads to appeals court

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Lawyers for an investigative journalism organization want a federal appeals court panel to overturn a ruling allowing Philadelphia’s main transit agency to refuse to run ads about the group’s stories on racial disparities in mortgage lending.

The American Civil Liberties Union is representing the Center for Investigative Reporting during arguments before the appeals panel Wednesday. They say the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s ban on advertising involving “matters of public debate” is unconstitutional and rejecting the ads is a First Amendment violation.

A federal district court ruled late last year that portions of the SEPTA policy were overly broad and should be amended.

But the court said the denial of the center’s advertising request was constitutional because the ban has been applied evenly regardless of viewpoint.