[Government] shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.
- First Amendment to the United States Constitution
Curry v. Prince Georges County, Maryland, 33
F. Supp. 2d 447 (D.C. Md. 1999), the Court held that
United States Supreme Court has held that "the First Amendment
has its fullest and most urgent application to speech
uttered during a campaign for political office." Moreover,
"communication by signs and posters is virtually pure speech."
Requiring Permits and Charging Fees for Campaign Signs
. . there is no justification for imposing [a permit and fee requirement]
in the case of campaign signs posted upon a private residence.
There are no expenses to defray of the sort attributable to parades
and processions . . . "Political signs neither interfere
with the use of the streets nor create a risk of disorder."
In any event, nominality of the license fee is beside the point.
"A tax on the content of speech does not become more constitutional
because it is a small tax." . . . As the Supreme Court suggested
. . . a prime virtue of residential signs is that they are "an
unusually cheap and convenient form of communication. Especially
for persons of modest means . . . a yard or window sign may have
no practical substitute. . . . Fee and permit requirements increase
the cost and decrease the convenience of this favored form of
communication. They amount to little more than "a charge
for the enjoyment of a privilege or benefit bestowed by the State.
[But] The privilege in question exists apart from state authority.
It is guaranteed the people by the federal constitution. . . .
The Countys permit and fee requirements insofar as they
apply to campaign signs posted upon private residences are also
Prince Georges County, Maryland, 33 F. Supp. 2d 447
(D.C. Md. 1999)
of applying a $1.00 inspection fee and a $5.00 deposit for sign
removal is found by the Court to be so great as to inhibit the use
of this means of communication. . . . [A] $5.00 removal deposit
has no relationship to the cost of removing a single 50 cent political
poster placed by a property owner in his front yard, and the charge
is so disproportionately burdensome as to inhibit such an expression
of political opinion. . . . [These regulations] are unnecessarily
burdensome and arbitrary in light of the interests such regulations
may properly serve.
v. Redwood City, 540 F.2d 1360 (9th Cir. 1976)
of Duration Limits for Temporary Political Signs
v. Gladstone, 54 F.3d 1400 (8th Cir. 1995) -
Ordinance deemed unconstitutional which limited placement or erection
of political signs from thirty days prior to the election to which
the sign pertains until seven days after the election.
v. Warren, 939 F. Supp. 554 (E.D. Mich. 1996) - Ordinance
deemed unconstitutional which prohibited posting of political yard
signs earlier than forty-five days prior to any election, and ordering
removal within seven days after.
v. North Hempstead, 426 F. Supp. 1144 (E.D.N.Y. 1977) -
Holding that no time limit on the display of pre-election political
signs is permissible under the First Amendment.
v. Candidates Outdoor Graphic Serv., 557 F. Supp.
52 (N.D. Cal. 1982) - Ordinance deemed unconstitutional which limited
display of political signs to the period of sixty days before election.
v. Tacoma, 854 P.2d 1046 (Wa. 1993) - Ordinance deemed unconstitutional
which limited posting of political signs to the period sixty days
prior to election and seven days after, where no time restrictions
were imposed on other temporary signs.
v. Wheaton, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1737 (N.D. Ill. 2000)
- Granting preliminary injunction enjoining enforcement of ordinance
the effect of which was to prohibit the display of political signs
for more than thirty days.
v. Prince Georges County, Maryland, 33 F. Supp. 2d
447 (D.C. Md. 1999) - Ordinance deemed unconstitutional that banned
political signs in private residences for all but forty-five days
before and ten days after an election.
unlimited power of removal . . . is unconstitutional because it
does not attempt to accommodate the citys interest in removing
improperly placed signs with First Amendment rights.
immunity lies only when a government official acts within his or
her scope of employment or duties. Removal of signs without requisite
notice lies outside of the ordinance and extinguishes any qualified
immunity that may result.
summary seizure of a political sign for even a few days can rob
the signs owner of an important First Amendment right.
May 17, 2002]
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