PHOENIX — Cities have a stake in reducing visual clutter, a state court said
in rejecting a doughnut shop owner's constitutional challenge to a
municipal law that restricts how much of a business' windows can be covered by
A Court of Appeals panel on May 4 upheld a trial judge's ruling in favor of
Mesa in a lawsuit filed by Edward Salib after a city code-enforcement officer
ordered Salib's business to remove window signs. The case is Salib vs. City of Mesa.
The 1999 law prohibited advertising from covering more than a third of
individual window panes in the downtown area, and city officials said it served
the government purpose of keeping the area attractive.
Salib contended in his January 2003 lawsuit that the law violated his
free-speech rights under the U.S. and Arizona constitutions, but the Court of
Appeals ruled that the law met criteria previously set by the U.S. Supreme Court
for allowing restraints on speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.
"We conclude the sign code directly advances a substantial interest and is
narrowly tailored to directly advance the goal of improved aesthetics," Judge
Patrick Irvine wrote for a three-judge panel.
Salib also argued that the law violated the Arizona Constitution's
free-speech protections by not being written as narrowly as possible. But the
appellate court said that issue didn't amount to a question of constitutional
"The Arizona Constitution may require a tighter fit in some contexts, but for
limits on window coverage the fit is already close and direct - the more
restrictive the regulation, the more the aesthetic benefit," Irvine wrote.
"Salib may disagree with Mesa as to whether the aesthetic benefits justify the
restrictions, but as with many measures related to aesthetics, the wisdom of
such restrictions are not a constitutional question appropriate for a court to
Salib's attorneys expressed disappointment with the ruling and said he might
"We filed this lawsuit to vindicate Mr. Salib's right to freely communicate
with his customers, and also to reinvigorate the constitutional protections for
every Arizonan who engages in commercial speech," said Tim Keller, executive
director of a public advocacy law firm, the Institute for Justice.