City Ordinance Limiting Political Signs to Days Before an Election Too Restrictive
Description Ohio high court struck a city ordinance that prohibited people from posting political signs on private property except for the 17-day period before an election. Such speech is due strong First Amendment protection and this ordinance is too restrictive.
Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words Free Speech; Political Signs; City Ordinance
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The City of Painesville had an ordinance limiting the posting of political signs except for seventeen days prior to an election and two days after an election. The ordinance also placed limits on size and placement of signs. A law firm posted a political sign more than seventeen days prior to an election and refused to take it down when the violation, a misdemeanor, was noted. The law firm moved to have the complaint dismissed because the ordinance is a violation of the First Amendment. The trial court refused to dismiss the complaint, so the law firm appealed. The appeals court held the ordinance to be unconstitutional. The City appealed.
Decision Affirmed. The posting of signs displaying political messages is a traditional method of speaking. Communicating by signs is virtually pure speech. Regulating a property owner's right to erect a yard sign affects both the owner's and a political candidate's First Amendment rights. Strict scrutiny is used to determine the constitutionality of regulation of protected speech. While the City has an interest in promoting aesthetic concerns, the ordinance is more extensive than is necessary to achieve this interest and other means of communicating the desired message did not exist for the property owner.
Citation City of Painesville Building Department v. Dworken & Bernstein Co., L.P.A., 733 N.E.2d 1152 (Sup. Ct., Ohio, 2000)

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