Last month, a federal magistrate judge in New York recommended invalidating yet another sign code as content based in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  In February 2015, a resident of the Village of Perry, New York, Carolyn Grieve, posted signs complaining about the village’s spending policies.  Grieve received a notice of

It’s been a little while since we’ve done a news update, but here are some of the good stories we’ve been tracking over the past several weeks:

  • There’s been a big outcry over an aspiring politician’s decision to post a billboard along a state highway in Polk County, Tennessee.
  • The City of Boston’s Landmarks Commission

The Town of Southeast’s sign regulations provided an exemption from permitting for political signs, so long as their placement did not exceed 21 days. In 2011, the code was amended to provide that the posting could occur up to 21 days before the event being advertised, and the signs had to be removed five days after the event.  Durational limits were not placed on other types of noncommercial signage.  In 2011, the plaintiff was charged in town court with a violation of the sign regulations for posting her political signs in the right-of-way and more than five days after an election.  In 2013, the Town amended the code again to limit the number of political signs to one per candidate per parcel.  In 2014, the Town amended the sign code to create strict limitations on all temporary signs, but exempted construction signs, portable business signs, real estate “for sale” signs, holiday decorations, agricultural produce advertising, and some other signs.
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Brigitte Vosse, a Manhattan designer and resident of New York City’s Upper West Side, can no longer display her illuminated peace sign in the window of her top-floor condominium unit in the famed 111-year-old Ansonia building, now that a federal district court has ruled that New York City’s ban on illuminated signs extending more than 40 feet above curb level has been found content neutral and a proper time, place, and manner restriction on speech.  Although the law in question excepted flags, banners, or pennants on lots containing civic, philanthropic, educational, or religious community facilities, the federal district court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals both found that the law was content neutral.  Back at the district court, the court found that the restriction on illuminated signs above 40 feet was supported by a significant governmental purpose—aesthetic quality—and that the restriction was narrowly tailored to that interest.  The court also found that, because Vosse could display a non-illuminated version of her sign, ample alternative channels were available for conveying her message.
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