A member of the street ministry of the Seminole Baptist Church, the plaintiff in the case. Source: Seminole Baptist Church
A member of the street ministry of the Seminole Baptist Church, the plaintiff in the case. Source: Seminole Baptist Church

The plaintiff in Williamson v. City of Foley was a Baptist pastor whose congregation periodically engaged in evangelistic street ministry by preaching and witnessing orally and with signs on public sidewalks at the intersection of two major highways. Continue Reading Evidence of Less-Restrictive Alternatives Do Not (Necessarily) Violate the Narrow Tailoring Requirement

Without including any facts or analysis in its opinion, the Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded a March 31, 2015, decision by the District Court for the Southern District of Florida.  According to the Eleventh Circuit, the district court must determine whether, under the June 18, 2015, Reed v. Town of Gilbert decision, the Town of Gulf Stream’s sign code constitutes either a facially content-based regulation, or a facially content-neutral regulation that “cannot be justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech, or that were adopted by the government because of disagreement with the message the speech conveys,” and therefore triggers strict scrutiny review.

O’Boyle v. Town of Gulf Stream, No. 15-13964, 2016 WL 4056394 (11th Cir. July 26, 2016)

The proposed billboard in this case was over three times the maximum sign area permitted by the City's sign code.
The proposed billboard in this case was over three times the maximum sign area permitted by the City’s sign code.

In a recent decision from the Michigan Court of Appeals, an applicant challenged a provision that gave the board of zoning appeals (BZA) discretion to approve signs that do not comply with the sign ordinance. The applicant, who had submitted an application for a sign that did not comply with the sign ordinance, brought an appeal to the BZA in accordance with a provision that said the BZA may grant a special permit for signs that do not otherwise comply only if the proposed sign meets certain specific standards. Those standards generally required that the sign be consistent with the purpose and intent of the sign code, be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood, and not be detrimental to the public safety or welfare or any adjacent land use, but reserved the discretion to grant the special permit to the BZA. The applicant’s facial challenge alleged that the discretion to grant the special permit constituted a prior restraint that “has the potential for becoming a means of suppressing a particular point of view.” The court disagreed, noting that the applicant could have received a permit for a billboard that met the sign code without applying for a special permit (and thus being subject to the BZA’s discretion), and moreover that the discretion, absent any evidence of an unconstitutional application, was sufficiently limited by the requirement that a proposed sign meet the specifically enumerated standards for approval. Continue Reading Optional “Special Permit” Process Does Not Place Unbridled Discretion in Government

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Virginia exercises “editorial control” over the brochures placed in kiosks located in its welcome centers, like this one in the Town of Skippers, limiting content to advertisements and other speech relevant to highway safety and the traveling public.

In a recent case involving the State of Virginia’s authority to regulate the placement of informational brochures in its welcome centers and rest areas, an advertiser brought suit. Continue Reading “Chilling Effect” Must Be Reasonable to Show Standing, plus an Expansion of the Government Speech Doctrine