South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Ban on Most Outdoor Portable Commercial Signs Unconstitutional

Appeals court affirmed that a near blanket restriction on portable commercial advertising signs was unconstitutional. The city has a legitimate interest in traffic safety and aesthetics, but regulations of advertising must be reasonable in achieving such interests.

Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words

First Amendment, Advertising, Portable Signs, City Ordinance

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

The City of Redmond, Washington, enacted an ordinance that prohibited portable signs, except for real estate signs. The ban included signs on trailers, sandwich boards, sidewalk signs, and other commercial outdoor portable and offsite signs. Ballen, owner of a bagel shop, hired an employee to stand on the sidewalk in the mornings wearing a sign that read: "Fresh Bagels - Now Open." The city told Ballen to stop. He sued for a determination that the ordinance was unconstitutional. The district court agreed with Ballen. The city appealed.


Affirmed. The ordinance violates the First Amendment. The city contends the ordinance is justified by its interest in traffic safety and aesthetics. There must be a "reasonable fit" between the city's interests and the restrictions imposed to achieve those goals. As the Supreme Court has held, regulation of lawful speech must be no more extensive than is necessary to achieve valid government interests. This blanket restriction is too far reaching.


Ballen v. City of Redmond, 466 F.3d 736 (9th Cir., 2006)

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