One of the trickier aspects of First Amendment jurisprudence has always been deciding whether and when conduct receives constitutional protection. Regulations that involve words or speech are easy enough. But does the First Amendment protect the heap of garbage your neighbor piled in his front lawn to protest the city’s tardy trash collection? (Probably, but the city can constitutionally regulate it anyway.) Does the Constitution care if you want to direct a spotlight against your neighbor’s home to express your displeasure with his trash heap? (Harder to say, but probably not.) These and other questions continue to vex courts assessing the First Amendment’s reach.
Enter Donald Burns and his quest to build a massive midcentury mansion amidst minimally more modest mansions in Palm Beach, Florida. (We’ve reported on his effort before.) Palm Beach considers itself “a worldwide synonym for beauty, quality and value,” and to preserve that reputation, it applies architectural review to new homes. Its standards observe that the “essential foundation of beauty in communities is harmony” and therefore prohibit structures that are too dissimilar from the surrounding buildings.
Dissatisfied with his 10,000 square-foot mansion, Burns approached Palm Beach about replacing it with a Continue Reading 11th Circuit: First Amendment Doesn’t Protect Florida Man’s Proposed Midcentury Mansion Because No One Can See It