Pacific Gas & Electric v. Public Utilities Commission

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Pacific Gas & Electric v. Public Utilities Commission
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued October 8, 1985
Decided February 25, 1986
Full case name Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. Public Utilities Commission of California et al.
Citations 475 U.S. 1 (more)
Holding
A private publisher cannot be forced to carry messages inconsistent with its views.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Powell, joined by Burger, Brennan, O'Connor
Concurrence Burger
Concurrence Marshall (in the judgment of the court only)
Dissent Rehnquist, joined by White and Stevens (Part I only)
Dissent Stevens
Blackmun took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Pacific Gas & Electric v. Public Utilities Commission, 475 U.S. 1 (1986), was a court case involving the requirement that San Francisco-based public utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company carry a message supplied by a public interest group in rebuttal to the messages the utility supplied in its newsletter which it placed in its billing envelope.

The rationale used by the regulatory agency was that the space in the billing envelope which could have material added that did not increase postage, belonged to the ratepayers rather than the utility, thus the commission could order the utility to allow other groups to use that space subject to restrictions.

The U.S. Supreme Court found the order of the California Public Utilities Commission to be unconstitutional, as the right to speak includes the right not to carry messages one disagrees with. As the court stated, "the choice to speak includes within it the choice of what not to say."

This is one of the cases which has essentially granted, with extremely limited exceptions, the absolute right of a publisher to choose not to carry messages it does not agree with.

See also[edit]