South-Western Legal Studies in Business

City Ordinance Restricting Billboards Valid

Appeals court held that a city did not violate commercial free speech rights by restricting billboards. The regulation was content neutral, it simply restricted the location in which some commercial speech may appear.

Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words

First Amendment, Commercial Speech, Sign Ordinance, Billboards

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Covenant, a billboard company, applied to build a billboard in North Charleston. After getting no response for months, Covenant sued to challenge the constitutionality of the city’s sign ordinance, contending that it violated its First Amendment rights. The city then denied its application and revised its sign ordinance. The district court held for the city; Covenant appealed.


Affirmed. The city took ten months to act on Covenant’s application. That was negligent on the part of the city, but does not invalidate its ordinance. The application was not acted upon so as to suppress speech in the form of a billboard. The city’s sign ordinance is valid as it is content neutral. It restricts where certain speech may occur, but is not designed to prevent certain forms of speech.


Covenant Media of South Carolina v. City of North Charleston, 493 F.3d 421 (4th Cir., 2007)

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