Can a city deny Donald Trump a rally permit?

The other day 34-year-old Mayor Lindsey Horvath of West Hollywood, Calif. said Republican presidential contender Donald Trump and his campaign were “not welcome” in her city. She also “instructed City staff that they are able to refuse to issue special events permits to Trump should he attempt to schedule a rally,” reported Gabby Morrongiello in the Washington Examiner. “Horvath has also called on the other 87 mayors in Los Angeles County to follow suit and block the billionaire from campaigning in their cities.”

Those comments might have set her community up for a costly lawsuit, since her position is plainly unconstitutional. Courts in the United States have made it clear that cities are not free to turn down a permit for one candidate that they would have approved for another simply because they disapprove of the first candidate’s viewpoint. Yet when contacted by law professor/blogger and First Amendment specialist Eugene Volokh, Horvath stuck by her position.

However, city attorney Michael Jenkins, evidently better informed, gave a response that directly contradicted the mayor’s when Volokh contacted him for a follow-up: “The City would consider an application from the Trump campaign no differently than from any other campaign.” Notes Volokh: “The city attorney’s position is consistent with First Amendment law; the mayor’s is not.”

There is no indication that Trump has planned any rallies for West Hollywood, notwithstanding a tweet in February by author Bret Easton Ellis that raised some eyebrows about the possibility that the billionaire might have an untapped constituency there.

P.S. In comments, Chris Bray notes that under West Hollywood’s system of governance, which delegates executive power to a city manager while a largely ceremonial position as mayor rotates among city councilpersons, it appears Horvath could not order city staff to adopt any policy on her own.


  • Her FB profile says she’s a “social justice advocate.” Why am I not surprised?

  • I think it all comes down to the Mayor stomping her foot saucily and acting out for her rather specialized constituency. Even if she really does think she can stop Trump from speaking out, her city attorney has pretty much warned her that she can’t.

    In any event, it’s all just theatre. It isn’t likely Trump is going to spend much time in that city, if at all. The gain just isn’t there for him. Someplace like Simi Valley would be rather a lot more receptive.

  • West Hollywood is a small city (less than two square miles, population under 40,000) with a part-time city council, run from day to day by a city manager. The “mayor” is one of the part-time councilmembers, serving a temporary rotation as the ceremonial leader of the city council. The mayor has no authority to “instruct” city permit staff to do anything, having only the authority of one-fifth of the city council. The city manager is the person who has the authority to instruct and direct city staff.

    To put that a little differently, Lindsey Horvath was putting on a piece of empty performance to spread her name around in the news. She didn’t instruct city staff to do anything. She’s pretending.

    • I didn’t even realize it was on a rotation. That makes Miss Horvath’s proclamation that the First Amendment is dead in West Hollywood even less important.

  • By the way, here’s the West Hollywood City Council’s website, which describes the role of the mayor:

    “The City Councilmembers serve for a term of four (4) years and are elected at large. The City Councilmembers select one of their members to serve as Mayor and this office rotates among the members of Council on their yearly reorganization which occurs in April.”

    And here’s the city’s Code of Conduct for elected and appointed city officials, which describes the limits on City Council interactions with city staff. Note especially Policy 1: “City officials shall deal with the administrative service solely through the City Manager or his/her designee.”

    Policy 1.1 says that elected city officials “shall not direct” city employees. Policy 1.2 forbids elected city officials from attempting to influence the way city employees do their jobs.

    Horvath has disrespected her office.

  • […] thing I like about running Overlawyered is that its readers regularly know more than I do. After I posted the other day about how West Hollywood, Calif. Mayor Lindsey Horvath said she was ordering city employees not to […]