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   SUPREME COURT/Key Cases 1997-1998


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Political Debate:
Arkansas Educational Television Commission v. Forbes

Appealed From: U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit
Subjects: First Amendment; Circuit Conflict; Congress; Elections; Mass Media

Argued: Oct. 8, 1997

Decided: May 18, 1998
Vote: 6-3
At Issue: Whether debate between political candidates, organized and broadcast by a state-owned public television network, is a limited public forum or a non-public forum. Also, whether officials at the television station may exclude a legally qualified independent candidate from a debate among congressional candidates because they do not consider him "viable."

Decision: By a 6-3 vote, the justices ruled that state-owned television stations do not have to invite all ballot-qualified candidates to participate in debates they sponsor. Excluding those so-called "fringe candidates," the court said, does not violate their First Amendment rights.

Read the full text of the Arkansas Educational Television Commission v. Forbes decision at the Findlaw Internet Legal Resources Web site.

Read the full text of the 1996 lower court case, Forbes v. The Arkansas Educational Television Commission, at the FindLaw Internet Legal Services Web site. Also read the First Amendment.


Background From The Post
Court Gives Public TV Choice in Debates (May 19, 1998)
Justices Question Barring Fringe Candidates From Debates on Public TV (Oct. 9, 1997)
High Court Agrees to Review Ruling on Political Debates (March 18, 1997)

Sources: The Washington Post, Supreme Court, The United States Law Week (a Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. publication)


© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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