This past summer, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that a billboard company’s challenge to a billboard restriction in Bellwood, Illinois was mooted by the fact that the company lost its lease on the property that it intended to construct a billboard. The court affirmed dismissal of the company’s First Amendment, equal protection, and antitrust claims.
In 2005, Paramount Media obtained leasehold rights to a property in the village abutting I-290, a high-traffic interstate corridor outside of Chicago. Although it sought the necessary state permits for a billboard, it failed to seek permits from the village. In 2009, the village amended its sign code to prohibit new billboards. The village later amended the code again to allow billboards on village-owned property. Paramount then sought to lease village-owned property along the interstate, but was rebuked, as the village had leased its property to another billboard company.
Paramount sued the village on First Amendment, equal protection, and antitrust claims in early 2013. The equal protection claim related to the village’s decision to lease its property to another billboard company. In late 2013, it lost its lease on its original property due to its failure to uphold the terms of the lease. The district court judge then found that Paramount lacked standing to bring its constitutional claims, and that the village was immune from antitrust suit.
The appeals court found that, although Paramount may have had a damages claim that would have given rise to a justiciable case, its filing of its claims in 2013 suffered from a statute of limitations defect. Thus, the First Amendment claim was not justiciable. The court also affirmed dismissal of the equal protection and antitrust claims. On the equal protection claim, the court noted that the other billboard company had simply offered the village more money for its lease.